The Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) is an independent UK literacy charity. We work to make sure that teachers have all the knowledge and understanding they need to support children to become lifelong readers and writers - we believe that this begins with making sure children have access to great books. So we do everything we can to make sure that teachers in primary schools see the best books and understand how to use them to support children's journey to literacy.
The use of high quality books within the reading curriculum is at the heart of a school's successful approach to engage and support children to become motivated and independent readers. If children enjoy reading, they read more frequently and become better readers. If teachers and those who work in schools know about the best children's literature available they will be able to share that with the children they teach and encourage them to be inspired as readers and motivated to read for themselves.
Our Core Booklist contains books that have been tried, tested and found to work successfully in classrooms, providing children with memorable and positive reading experiences. The Core Booklist was originally a printed publication and it was updated every two years. It is now a free, online publication which anyone can use to find the very best of current children's literature. The collection is curated and updated by our full time, trained librarian in partnership with our teaching staff. The Core Booklist is a selection of carefully chosen texts for teachers to use when they are developing collections for their classrooms and schools as part of their reading and literacy programmes. The list demonstrates the key role that children's literature can play across the curriculum, and in forwarding children's progress as readers. The books are chosen because they support children learning to read and in their development as readers.
Each year at CLPE we work face to face with more than 2000 teachers from across the country and many thousands more use our online resources. So what are the kind of things we say to teachers about choosing and using literature to use with the children in their classes?
Well the first thing (and we aren't by any means the only people to say this) is that teachers need to be readers themselves. In order to recommend appropriate books to children, to extend and develop their reading and continue to feed their interests, people working in schools need to have an extensive knowledge of the full range of children's literature available. Then they can build a collection of books from a wide and diverse range of authors, illustrators, genres and forms and support children's reading enjoyment by being able to recommend, capture interests and passions and take children on a journey from learning to read to accessing a wide breadth of literature and also reading for information.
Having books which really lend themselves to being read aloud is so important. In fact, it is probably the most important thing a teacher can do. Reading a book aloud creates a fantastic shared experience, giving children access to texts that they may not be able to read themselves and introducing them to new authors, adventures and worlds.
Build up a bank of books that you enjoy and that you know work. For example books which lend themselves to reading aloud, those that can be used to support teaching or those that are better for groups or for individuals. These should include short stories, folk and fairy tales, myths and legends, classic and modern children's fiction, poetry and picture books. Remember, picture books are for all ages, not just very young children. Illustrations can complement text in a variety of ways such as telling a different or supplementary story from the written text. This extends to fiction, information books and online resources. Wordless books have an important place enabling interpretation and inference.
Provide books that allow children to see themselves reflected in what they read and to have the opportunity to investigate other lives, worlds and perspectives in their reading. Seek out books that reflect the diversity of our world and make children aware of the wider world beyond their immediate sphere. It is particularly important to pay attention to authors who are writing from authentic personal experience and knowledge and to adults in the school community who know other languages or literatures.
And finally, respect and notice children's tastes and choices, ensuring that the texts you have in your collections foster and increase their experience of literature as well as supporting current interests. It is really important to listen to and respect children's choices while helping them to broaden their reading range. Don't automatically dismiss children's enjoyment of certain types of books such as books in popular series. These texts can draw children in, provide important reading practice and encourage them to read for pleasure. Children can be easily put off when they feel adults are making judgements about their reading choices, so to help children move forward in their reading, teachers have found it helpful to allow children to have a say in the selection of books for the book corner and library. Teachers who have a wide knowledge of children's literature have found that they can use this knowledge to make recommendations about 'next' books they might try.
We provide lots of advice for teachers through our free online resources, our training and our projects - and this is, of course, available for people who are not teachers as well. But the most important advice has to be this: understand the power of quality children's literature to support children to become confident, happy and enthusiastic readers and writers with all of the benefits this brings.
About the Author
Louise Johns-Shepherd is the Chief Executive of the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE). Before joining CLPE in 2013, Louise was the headteacher of two schools and was also a senior leader in both the Primary National Strategies and the National College of School Leadership. She is a judge for the Amnesty CILIP Honour Medal (2016 and 2017).
CLPE is a charity working with all those involved in teaching literacy in primary schools. Our work raises the achievement of children by helping schools to teach literacy more effectively and showing teachers how quality children's literature can be place at the heart of all learning.