“You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book.” – Dr Seuss. Many teachers already appreciate the value of setting time aside to read stories aloud in the classroom. A particular subject we talk about regularly in our blogs. Picking the perfect book for storytime is a delight, teachers share a favourite book from their childhood or excitedly discover new titles. However, it can also be a challenge when you factor in choosing age-appropriate books for certain year groups.
This challenge particularly comes to light now as schools tackle the effects of the lockdown. As they start to open to children across a range of year groups, teachers may find they need to adapt activities to be appropriate for as many different ages and abilities as possible. The curriculum may look completely different or there may be a desire to produce a focus for as many year groups as possible and to build on the sense of a school community. This can include a shared school book or story time…
Recommendations From Our Expert Team of Librarians
Our team of librarians have looked at this challenge and put together a recommended list of age-appropriate books, ideal to use across different year groups. These stories have been carefully selected to hold the interest of Key Stage 1 pupils, whilst offering an interesting storyline and providing opportunities for extended activities from the text for upper Key Stage 2.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers
A favourite in a lot of classrooms, this is a charming story about a pack of crayons who have had enough of how they are treated. It’s told in a series of letters from the crayons to the child. As well as providing lot of laughs, it lends itself to activities such as letter writing and creating artwork using an alternate colour scheme.
Journey by Aaron Becker
Wordless picture books are a fantastic format for using across the year groups. The younger year groups can look at Aaron Becker’s stunning illustrations and engage in discussions as to what the story might be. In addition, the older year groups can follow on with creative writing activities using sequential pictures.
The Day the War Came by Nicola Davies and Rebecca Cobb
A highly emotive subject, Nicola Davies wrote this poem in a frustrated response to 3000 child refugees being refused entry to the country in 2016. The story deals sensitively with a child escaping a war that destroys everything she knows. After a long journey alone, she is given a glimmer of hope at the end. The original poem inspired a campaign in which artists contributed drawings of chairs to symbolise a seat in the classroom, a promise of education, kindness and hope for the future. A beautiful story that provides important discussion points and follow-on activities.
The Secret of Black Rock by Joe Todd-Stanton
Beautifully illustrated in a graphic novel format. This story follows Erin as she sneaks away in her mother’s fishing boat to investigate the mysterious black rock, known for destroying any boat that goes near it. The story is appealing to a broad age range and can lead to topic work throughout the school including; seaside, habitats and fake news. CLPE has produced some fantastic resources and lesson plans that can sit alongside this book:
The Whisperer by Nick Butterworth
A tale of two gangs of cats, both living in the same scrap yard. They spend their time fighting each other, thanks to a whispering rat until something changes. A brilliant take on classic stories such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘West Side Story’. Spark a debate about different viewpoints and invite children to look at how you can bring the two sides together.
Voices in the Park by Anthony Browne
Anthony Browne remains a firm favourite for teachers! Voices in the Park is one of his best examples of a text that gives much more than a story. The younger children enjoy the illustrations and spot the little details whereas older children see the park from the perspectives of four very different people and learn about characterisation.
What Other Books Can You Use?
Here are our top tips for choosing age-appropriate books that will keep the interest of the younger listener while challenging the older reader to look deeper into the text:
- Find something that is not too lengthy, or at least that can be broken down into bite-size chunks to read over a number of days.
- Read the book, then re-read the book before you commit to using it. Make sure that the story is appropriate for your younger year group. Not just in the language that is used, but the story content itself.
- Look at what themes you can take from it. Is there something that you could take into KS2 for extended activities?
- If it has illustrations, these will help the younger readers remain engaged so try and find a way of displaying these boldly while you read.
A good book will keep the children listening to every word (with minimal fidgeting) and keen to ask questions or share their thoughts as you turn the page.
The Hidden Extras
By reading regularly as a school you are providing a routine and a shared experience. They might find this is something they can look forward to, a sense of normality in unusual times.
As Dr Seuss said, “Sit back and relax. All you need is a book”