The Reading Offer…What choices are you giving children?

Wild reading

Twitter is great for making you stop and think sometimes. Yesterday Rob Smith (Literacy shed supremo) posted a tweet that really struck a chord with me. Rob tweet

It made me stop and think about reading and what we offer children in our school. Do we offer a gruel or a gourmet reading experience for our pupils. I found myself time-travelling back to my youth and thinking about what made me a reader. A formative part in that for me as a child was non-fiction. Non-fiction was for me where I found my ‘Reading for Pleasure’

I would spend hours poring over the one book that I owned, given to me by my Aunty Pat for Christmas in 1979 or maybe 1980.

mysteries of the unknown.jpg

First question should be “What the hell were you doing Aunty Pat?” It was terrifying. It was also utterly brilliant. I read that book so many times it eventually fell apart. (I did cry)


mysteries squid

It was a brilliant non-fiction book (I appreciate now that there is quite a lot of fiction in this book)…endlessly re-readable, loads and loads to learn about. It was also glorious to look at, sumptuous in the detail and fantastically illustrated. It was the total package. I can’t even begin to count the hours I spent lay on my bed reading it, lost in its pages, savouring its detail.

It was only replaced when my Dad came home with a set of battered Encyclopaedia Britannica, they then became my go to books for exploring and finding stuff out.

This made me stop and think about two things really. The first was our school offer for reading.

What reading experiences/ choices are we offering children?

Do we have the books that children can wallow in like a warm bath?

Do we have the books that let children explore and find out stuff driven by their own interests?

(Or is the reading material particularly non-fiction controlled and merely used as an extended comprehension exercise.)

There are absolutely fantastic non-fiction books out there…

The question is do we let children explore non-fiction in their reading choices in the way we do with fiction? I tried to come up with a list of what our offer beyond fiction looks like in the library. I’m sure people could add other ideas and suggestions.

  • Encyclopaedias
  • Short stories
  • Graphic novels
  • True-life stories
  • Comics
  • Newspapers
  • Diaries
  • Biographies
  • Magazines
  • Leaflets
  • Theatre and football programmes
  • Recipe books / cards
  • Posters
  • Travel brochures
  • Maps
  • Timetables
  • Food packaging
  • Catalogues
  • Letters and postcards
  • Advertisements

It also made me think about how we use non-fiction in school.

Is it controlled? Do we only read non-fiction when we want to find out a key thing?

I’ve seen comments that talked about only accessing non-fiction on the web, where children search for what they need to find out. Sadly this denies children experiencing the beauty and wonder that a crafted non-fiction book provides.

My experience of non-fiction is different I know lots of stuff, not because I had to know it but because I found it in a brilliant non-fiction books. Interests were sparked by stumbling on something as I immersed myself in the pages.

This led me to try to think of the main purposes for reading. So far I have these five. If you have any more please add to my list…

Purposes for Reading

  1. Read to learn something new
  2. Read to make us think
  3. Read to be entertained
  4. Read to be inspired
  5. Read to inform
  6. Reading to help us understand others better (from Anne Thompson @ALibraryLady)
  7. reading is to help us understand ourselves (Courtesy of Teresa Cremin)

So finally the big question?

What is your schools Reading offer?

Give the question ten minutes, it’s worth it.

4 thoughts on “The Reading Offer…What choices are you giving children?

  1. Thanks Simon- great read
    For me another key reason for reading is to help us understand ourselves – of course that’s connected to ‘ make us think’ but through reading we make life to text and text to life connections ( as Margaret Meek and many others have highlighted) and through these imaginative links we explore our values – our identities and sense of self .Both fiction and non fiction( and perhaps especially faction – that hybrid in between form where we may be captured by interest AND the narrative hook) help us to explore this. But overall I agree – my prediction for 2018 to BfK was that non – fiction (and Poetry) start to move towards pole position in RfP – it is time we paid more attention to the Griiterman’s own commitment- there us much we can learn from him Teresa


  2. Good stuff! Of course non-fic should be available, wide-ranging and actively promoted as a reading choice for children. Many prefer factual books (as I did when young) and the great majority of these titles don’t overface the less confident reader by presenting endless pages of blank text. As an author who visits over 50 schools a year to promote reading for pleasure I find that non-fiction is the most powerful route into reading for the reluctant: it is accessible, visually attractive, interesting and vibrant.
    In terms of your list and what’s missing – humour! This is the most powerful kind of non-fiction of all in my view and I have found funny fact books an extremely effective lure for children who say they don’t like reading. Just look at the popularity of the Horrible Histories (and related) series – it is the combination of choice information and wit that works so well. I write these types of books myself and they are very popular because they entertain as well as inform and can be dipped into and shared with friends – both important attractions for those who don’t take readily to reading for pleasure.
    So your list should include humour, miscellanies and joke books, I think! Short stories and graphic novels are fiction, surely. And if we are talking about non-fic in terms of reading for pleasure I don’t think timetables, food packaging and advertisements etc should be on the list.
    BTW I will be speaking at Reading Rocks goes to Uni on this very topic


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