Booktalk and Reading Buddy

Our #RR_North Headline Sponsors are joining us tomorrow for our #RR_Chat at 8:30pm. They’ve chosen Booktalk as the hot topic of conversation.



Here, RR Friend James Clements writes about the importance of Book Talk.

Booktalk and Reading Buddy

The link between children choosing to read for pleasure in their own time and a whole range of positive outcomes is well known. Research has suggested that reading for pleasure has a strong correlation with improved outcomes in reading assessments, a wider vocabulary, stronger performance in assessments of spelling and mathematics, not to mention emotional literacy and even good health in later life.

If reading widely for enjoyment is positive, then reading combined with rich booktalk- time to talk about the texts that they are reading – is truly magical.

It is through high quality booktalk that children become real readers- able to explore and express their opinions and reflect on different interpretations of the same text. Booktalk also provides a place for young readers to hone the strategies that will help them to become skilled fluent readers who will be able to understand and enjoy anything they wish to read. So, how can we help to embed booktalk at school and at home, so it is as enjoyable and productive as possible? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Build in time to talk about books

Time is always precious in school and every aspect of the curriculum has to earn its space on the timetable. Time to talk about books can seem indulgent when there is a body of new content to cover.

But few things are more educationally useful than time for a teacher to model who a reader makes meaning from a text, or for children to discuss their opinions about a poem they have both read; for a class to share recommendations, creating a buzz about books or for a small group to discuss a new idea that comes from their reading. Booktalk needs time and space on the curriculum, both planned into lessons and space for spontaneous discussion. It is through booktalk that children become mature readers who can express opinions of their own.

  1. Give children a starting point

Booktalk that begins with a simple ‘turn to you partner and talk about the text’ can lead to great discussion, but more often than not children need a bit of support to get to this stage. For every child who will thrive in this situation, there will be at least one more who will struggle to join in. Skillful teachers of reading often help start booktalk by beginning with a rich open-ended question or a provocative statement. These can help children to engage in quality booktalk.

One tried and tested way of beginning booktalk is by making use of Aiden Chambers’ Tell me beginnings, four seemingly simple questions that can lead to a deep and wide-ranging discussion about a book:

  • Was there anything you liked about this book?
  • Was there anything you disliked about this book?
  • Was there anything that puzzled you?
  • Were there any patterns or connections that you noticed?
  1. Support children to use different reading strategies as they are needed organically

Research suggests that there are a number of comprehensions strategies that children can be taught to draw on when they read to help them make meaning. They include:

  • Visualising what is happening in what they are reading
  • Using their knowledge of the structure of the text to help
  • Drawing on their background knowledge to help understand what they are reading
  • Making inferences to understand what is happening
  • Monitoring their own comprehension, recognising when they don’t understand

Explicitly teaching children to do these things in reading lessons is likely to be very useful for children learning to read. But children also need the opportunity to learn to use these strategies organically as the need arises in their real reading. That means not being told ‘today, we are practising making inferences’, but instead reading a text and then making an inference when it is needed, perhaps with the teacher modelling the strategy or through a focused question or discussion task. Booktalk gives children a place to learn to comprehend the books they read, with rich dialogue exploring and modelling the reading process.

Booktalk sits at the heart of great reading teaching.

Oxford Reading Buddy

Of course, sometimes finding someone to talk to about what you’re reading isn’t always possible. Sometimes during a child’s independent reading there isn’t anyone there to prompt their thinking with a rich question or suggest a comprehension strategy when they’ve got stuck. This is where Oxford Reading Buddy can help.

Oxford Reading Buddy is a unique new digital reading service that can support children to develop deeper comprehension skills.

Reading Buddy is built around a set of specially-written ebooks, aimed at readers of all ages and levels of confidence. To guide the child through the book there is a personal, digital reading coach: a Reading Buddy. While they are enjoying their book independently, a child can call on their Reading Buddy to model different comprehension strategies, helping them learn to use these to make meaning from a text. Reading Buddy is also on hand to ask questions to prompt children to think deeply and reflect on their own understanding.

Oxford Reading Buddy isn’t there to replace rich booktalk with a teacher, parent or friend. Instead the service has been carefully designed to work on the same principles, adding another layer of support for young readers while they are enjoying their book independently. Reading Buddy models and prompts them to think about a text and practise the reading strategies that mature, accomplished readers can already draw on to understand and enjoy what they read.

Look here to find out more about Oxford Reading Buddy.


James colour photo  James Clements is an education writer and researcher.



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