I'm a passionate believer in reading aloud to children. It's a regular part of every day for us in Year 6 and I'm more and more convinced that this routine joy for us all is the key to building readers for life, in terms of confidence, knowledge, skills, and of course, pleasure.
There is so much research to say that Reading Aloud to children is wildly beneficial and it doesn't need anything much from me (though in support of this, I could cite many, many wonderful anecdotes of how children have responded so positively, or things they have said about it). Rather, I'm drawing on many years of working in that Year-group to provide a few things that hopefully will give support to those working in Year Six for the first time, or who want to 'hit the ground running' if they are starting off on introducing reading aloud to this age-group. Because it's really important to read aloud to these kids: just as important as when they were joining school in Reception; just as important as when they were in their cots at one-year-old; just, quite simply, so important.
Although so much about Storytime is necessarily personal, the following list and the ensuing blogs needs careful consideration before using or developing in your own practice. There is one absolutely necessary rule though and that is it is vital to read any book yourself first before sharing with the class,
to ensure you have a feel for the whole story, to shape your reading
appropriately, and most importantly to identify if there are any
sensitive issues pertinent to you or the children that will come up.
This is the first of a series of blogs. Part 2 focuses on setting up the classroom to develop a Read-Aloud culture and Part 3 is a collection of tips around the actual process of reading a story most effectively.
But to start is a list of ten tried, tested and most-adored books that have been winners every time I have read them in Year 6. It's in no way comprehensive; it's a personal selection; but I hope it will stimulate you to try some of them, get the taste for Storytime and lead you to some of the best times with your class. If you're already a fan of reading aloud, then it will make me very happy if you find something different to try here.
The Ten Books
1. A.M. Howell: The Garden of Lost Secrets
A lovely 'transition' book for the beginning of Year 6, the story weaves and winds its way from mystery to deeper mystery in a beautifully old-fashioned way (in a good sense!). The complexity of characters is perfect for the age-group as a whole and the novel never soft-soaps some of the more painful difficulties that they face. Strongly recommended.
2. Jenny Pearson: The Super Miraculous Journey of Freddie Yates
Published just this year (2020) it made my 'bubble' and me laugh like no other book ever has. But underneath the surface hijinks is a depiction of 11-year-olds that shows them with all their bravado, energy and most of all their deep sensitivities. Absolutely wonderful.
3. Rachel Rooney: A Kid in My Class
Without a doubt, an important and highly original collection of poems that explore the 'personalities' of every classroom - the Drama Queen, the Keepy Uppy-Kid, the one who's first for everything... Poetry read aloud for pleasure needs championing: this is the perfect choice to start with.
4. Ross Montgomery: Christmas Dinner of Souls
Genuinely scary collection of connected horror/ghost stories, perfect for this age-group. Keep an eye on the faces during the denouement of 'The Beast' - gloriously ghoulish fun!
5. Chris Priestley: Seven Ghosts / Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror
More spook stories that are deeply unsettling. Less of the warped humour than in the Montgomery, but just as popular as Christmas Dinner. My classes who have read this talk about their favourite stories long after the book was finished.
6. Malorie Blackman: Cloud Busting
A firmly established classic of the poetic novel form and a quick read, but one which will engage the class in a lot of discussion. Nuanced and challenging, it has always been a favourite with different classes.
7. Alastair Chisholm: Orion Lost
Another very new book that I read to my class in January 2020, but one to which they listened rapt. High quality Science Fiction is quite rare in middle-grade fiction but here, a complex (and complicated) storyline is supported by exciting pacy writing with set pieces that are...well..out of this world. . Possibly one of the first books that children will read where characters have real flaws, it is certain to get children thinking and talking!
8.Jason Reynolds: Ghost
powerful, enjoyable and challenging novel that focuses on the life of
one boy joining a Track team. He has been running (in all sorts of ways)
for his whole life, until he meets Patina, Sunny, Lu and Coach who show
him, through sport, to begin to understand himself better. Contains
violence and mild swearing.
9. Jo Cotterill: Jelly
This novel was the favourite-of-the-year with the whole class last year. It prompted a huge amount of discussion and it developed real empathy and connection with the characters. By turns funny, moving, involving and provoking it is a book that will not be forgotten and is an excellent choice of book to lead more mature readers to explore independently the world of 'tween' fiction ahead of secondary school.
10. Gene Kemp: The Turbulent Term of Tyke TylerHilarious and true, old-but-most-definitely-gold, this is the story of Tyke's last term in Primary School with all its fun, frustrations and complexity. Tyke's voice is one of the strongest and most endearing you will ever read. That's all I'll say about this book for now!