Cooking the books…

By Margaret Allen, Strategic Education Manager

A Recipe for: Reading for Pleasure

This is possibly one of the simplest yet most effective ways of encouraging children to read for pleasure… it’s also one of my favourites as it works equally well for all ages of Primary pupils. The key ingredient in the recipe is choice – the more diverse, the better. By giving children access to lots of different genres, both fiction and non-fiction, it helps them to explore their own preferences. How does that old saying go, ‘you’ll never know unless you try’… and it couldn’t be truer for younger readers. And that’s why this recipe is so great. It helps you to create a reading culture where books are not judged by their covers and encourages everybody to try something new. Including you!

Cooking Time:
Preparation: Between 1 hour – 1 day (you’re totally in control)
Cooking: Typically at least four weeks, but ultimately decided by you!


  • At least one book per pupil
  • A diverse range of book genres (top tip – include fiction and non-fiction)
  • Book boxes (enough for one per table)
  • Stickers (to label the boxes)
  • Accelerated Reader (optional)
  • Method:

    1. Source the books as detailed above. If you’re short of choice in school, speak to your local library about an extended loan on a range of books. Or if logistics allow, you could even take your class on a visit to choose and collect the books.

    2. Create the book boxes. Divide the books between all of the boxes, making sure that you have enough books in each box for every table. Label the boxes according to the stickers you have chosen. With this I like to choose theme per term and follow this through with the stickers – ‘animals’ has been a front -runner for a while…

    3. Plan your programme. Decide what you want your programme to look like. Whether it’s a daily or weekly rotation, for example. Think about what time fits best for your class – morning or afternoon? Just be sure to keep your own record of how the book boxes are being rotated around the tables. It’s also a good idea to include one box that has something other than conventional reading books… materials like cookery books, holiday brochures and comics.

    4. Get the children excited. Explain what the book boxes are all about – it’s their chance to choose anything they like from the box on their table and they only have 30 seconds to pick one! Try coming up with a name that they can recognise as special reading time, such as ‘It’s time for Book Bop. Again, you decide how long the actual reading session should be – I found 15 minutes was a good starting point.

    5. Encourage discussion. After each ‘Book Bop’, give the children five minutes to share with each other and as a class discussion, what they liked and what they didn’t like about the book they had chosen.

    6. Allow time to explore. Leave the book boxes allocated to the table until the next Book Bop. That way, if a child has found a book they like, you can give them the opportunity to take the book home or continue reading – until it is time to rotate the boxes.

    7. Take a quiz. If your school has Accelerated Reader, then children can take a quiz on any book they finish reading. If the child was surprised that they liked the book, you can also help them to find similar titles using the free www.ARBookfind.co.uk tool.

    8. Rotate the boxes. It’s the recipe that keeps on giving – rotate the boxes for as long as you like, although I found half-termly was a good timescale to follow. Especially when including local library excursions.

    Like this? Then why not try The Great British Book Off?

    We’ve teamed up with CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) to bring you ‘The Great British Book Off’! Just like the Great British Bake Off, this competition has three challenges – all designed to engage young readers who will need to out-read, outwit and outperform fellow readers to become Star Reader of the Week…

    Designed to support the CILIP Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards, free teaching resource packs are available from the CILIP website.

    Margaret Allen
    Strategic Education Manager

    Margaret Allen is Strategic Education Manager for Primary schools at Renaissance Learning. She uses practical experience from her time teaching in primary classrooms to help teachers across the UK to get the most out of Accelerated Reader.

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