The Risk and Reward of Recommending Books

Guest Blog: Adam Morris, Twinkl.

When I was a teacher of literacy, I sometimes helped with transition visits. No visit was complete without a trip to the library. And pupils were allowed to borrow a book for the summer. Last year was like no other. Everyone rushed to grab a book. Except two or three from the class.

As usual, I went over to the reluctant few. I asked one of them what they’d like to read.

“The text messages on my phone,” was his answer. For someone who spends a lot of their time winning readers over, that reply caught me off guard. But it’s a firm reminder of what educators and book lovers do – and why you do it.

Inspiring a love of reading can be tough. But you’ll know it’s worth it when a child’s face lights up. Great stories take us on a journey. And there’s no better feeling when a child asks you to read one more chapter.

This begs the question. Where do you start? Suggesting a good book is like being a matchmaker. You need to know the person. Have an idea of their likes, dislikes and their hopes and dreams. Books feed into that. But there are millions out there. More than we can know and read ourselves.

Recommendations are the bedrock of great stories being read. Below you’ll find a collection of some fond favourites. Add them to your ‘recommends’ collection. My readers were drawn in straight from the first few pages. Yours could be too:

Book Cover: Mind the Gap by Phil Earle

Mind The Gap by Phil Earle

A great book about love, loss, and growing up as a young kid in London. How do I know it’s good? Two of my pupils had read some of it as part of an Ofsted inspection. They both requested it by name a week later.

Book Cover: Illegal by Andrew Donkin and Eion Colfer

Illegal by Andrew Donkin and Eion Colfer

Graphic novels are fantastic options for anyone who struggles to read for long periods of time. This is no exception. It’s also a fantastic gateway to discussing challenging concepts and themes around immigration too.

Book cover: Brock by Anthony McGowan

Brock by Anthony McGowan

A book that makes people laugh and cry in equal measure. I’ve read this book with loads of classes. Not a single complaint from any. The characters are lovable and relatable. And there’s something about reading the book that feels nostalgic.

Book cover: Once by Morris Gleitzman

Once by Morris Gleitzman

A heart-breaking window into the history of WWII. Unputdownable. Your pupils will recognise a lot of the themes from their history classes. It was another great book to discuss and link to lots of other subjects. And the narrator is a fantastic storyteller.

Book cover: Guinness World Records 2023

Guinness World Records

A useful book for casual reading. Half of its charm is in how the facts will astound and amaze. The other half is that the reading is digestible. Non committal. Sometimes pupils would visit our department to catch-up on tests they’d missed. If they had to wait for a few minutes, they were able to pick a book off the shelf to read. This one got the most attention. It doesn’t even have to be the latest addition.

Book cover: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

A mega hit when this was released. Full of inspiring characters. Themes of insecurity and finding self-belief will truly resonate with the kids too. We used extracts of this book in one of our literacy tests. If pupils didn’t already recognise the story, they would usually ask about it afterwards.

Book cover: Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke

A beautifully descriptive book. And every chapter starts with a quote from another book. So the whole experience of reading it is lovely and ties in well with other books. So why do I recommend this one? It was during lockdown. My neighbour’s eldest child had finished the latest instalment of a book series she liked. She wanted something else to read, but wasn’t sure what she’d like. After several attempts at other books, I lent her this tale. Absolutely loved it. It wasn’t long before she asked after the next one. Then the one after that.

Book cover: Skullduggery Pleasant- The End of the World by Derek Landy

 Skullduggery Pleasant: The End of the World by Derek Landy

Your pupils will quickly fall in love with this series. But the world book day instalment is a short read. I chose this book because I’ve recommended the series a lot. And had the satisfaction of seeing them reading the books from the series a little while later. It rarely disappoints. The characters are witty, funny, and incredibly sarcastic. Perfect for growing minds.

The art of recommending books

The way books are recommended to kids and in schools, it sometimes feels like you’re sending a message in a bottle out to sea. You want the message to spread and reach others. But when your ideas miss the mark, it can feel hard and isolating to recommend books at times. But like I said: even helping one young person discover their love for books is so worth it.

Again the key is building your catalogue of recommendations. Hopefully these books help with that.

If you’re on the lookout for more recommendations, you’ll find limitless books to choose from with ‘Give a Book.’ There’s also a great set of book recommendations on the great twinkl book list. And plenty of short reading activities from stories too. They have been tried and tested by the toughest critics around – children.

We hope you like them as well.

Thank you, Adam for writing this guest blog!

About the Author

Adam Morris works as a Content Executive for educational publishers, Twinkl. He loves to read. His favourite book is The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman. He shares the same passion for seeing that every young person gets the chance to read.

For more book recommendations, head to our Bookshop Lists below & check out our friends, Book Clubs in Schools who can help spark a love in reading in your school.

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