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Staff meaningful conversations around books

Resource to support key area 2.3.2 Staff meaningful conversations around books

Type: Classroom resources
Level: Core
Audience: Primary, Secondary
Key area: 2.3.2 Staff meaningful conversations around books

Watch this short video to find out more about key area 2.3.2 Staff meaning conversations around books. This is part of our series of webinar shorts, 5 minute training videos focusing on each key area of the Reading Schools framework.

In a Reading School, staff should ensure they know about learners' interests and have regular conversations with learners about their personal reading. 

As a learner's reading identity develops, it's important to capture their interests and help them on that journey of discovery. Interest-based conversations are crucial to ensure a learner is able to communicate the types of story they like, and can access guidance to find other stories to challenge and inspire them.

The webinar short and activities below provide examples and ideas to help you create a culture of openness and inclusion, where those conversations around books happen freely and in a meaningful way. You can adapt and change these activities and ideas to suit your setting, and the needs of your learners.


We expect staff at Reading Schools to engage with all learners individually to support reading for pleasure:

Talking 'bout books

Building conversations around the books your learners are reading is incredibly important if their interests are to be met and their reading identities to develop. Creating time to discuss reading, whether the focus is genres, attitudes, aspirations or challenges, should be considered at every opportunity, with learners afforded the opportunity to speak freely and seek support from their teachers.

To kick off, using set conversation starters is a great way to cover a number of bases and allow learners to become familiar and comfortable with the notion of discussing what they are reading. Start with a small list of simple questions, such as 'What did you like about the story?', 'Would you like to read more stories like this?' and 'Was there anything you disliked about the story?'. You can even have these printed on strips of paper and used as bookmarks. Encouraging learners to talk about what they are reading, express their interests and think critically about whether they enjoy or dislike certain stories, will help to build their confidence, broaden their interests and explore new, challenging texts.

As a teacher or school librarian, it's important to be armed with recommendations and knowledge of a range of stories to help guide learners through their reading discoveries. These conversations can be invaluable in establishing good reading habits and matching learners with stories that will offer them rich experiences and growth as readers.

Conversations with whole classes can be a great way to get everyone talking about books and stories, but equally well it is important that individual learners are afforded the opportunity to talk about their reading interests and aspirations.

Finding the time

If you offer DEAR or ERIC time in your classes, this provides a great opportunity to end each reading session with a discussion about what's being read, either as a whole class or in smaller groups.

Building in time for learners to digest, analyse and discuss what they are reading should become part of that routine. Peer discussion is important, but equally so is that staff express an interest and help nurture a love of reading, while also planning ahead on how best to support their learners on the next step of their reading adventure.

Leading conversations around books can be a great activity for learning assistants and support learning teachers, or even parent volunteers and cafeteria staff. The more we all talk about reading and normalise those conversations, the more frequently and naturally they will happen, creating and sustaining an open culture of booked related chat.

Culture of openness

During these conversations, learners should feel able to express themselves freely and staff should do what they can to accommodate this. A learner with an interest in manga comics and current affairs should be given as much support and attention as a learner interested in epic sagas and reference texts. All reading is good reading and each learner's reading identity should be catered for as much as possible, through individual conversations and personalised responses.

From conversations around books, learners can not only delve deeper into the reading habits they are familiar with, along with those comfortable books, but also broaden their scope and explore further; for example, a learner with an interest in real-life mysteries might explore historical fiction, or a learner with a passion for world building fantasy might explore travel journalism.

As adults we know only too well that our interests and tastes change over time, similarly our interest can be determined by what mood we are in. Children and young people are no different; if we want in instil a lifelong love of reading in our learners, we need them to be part of that process, with our job being to listen, advise and respond.