(While I am aware that I have briefly touched on this subject before, here, I always intended to return to it to add some more thoughts and reflections.)
Ask any pupil in any English class and the two words which will kill a love of reading more than any others are ‘book’ and ‘report’. You might change ‘report’ for ‘review’. You might call it character study. You might call it a cream bun but they know what it is. What they don’t get is why oh why they have to do it.
Let’s face it. Book reports serve little purpose. In theory we say they ask the pupil to reflect their understanding but they don’t really. They are ‘busy work’ which kill a love of reading in children. Fact. (but don’t press me on that.) However ask yourself this? If you knew you had to write a report on every book you read at home would you be so keen to pick one up? Especially when you don’t really like reading anyway? Thought not.
Adults pick up a book at the end of the day when they have finished work and want to escape. We very often don’t let our pupils do that. A love of reading should be our only aim in English class, especially in the lower years. Everything else will fall into place.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against responses to reading. It would be a shame to miss opportunities for pupils to express their views on something they’ve read. We just have to be careful as to what and how often. So, when it comes to Personal Reading – not study of literature but a choice of books to be read independently – book tweets are brilliant. They are exactly that. Book reports in 140 characters.
There are rules, however:
- Title and author must not be used.
- Tweets must be grammatically perfect and punctuated properly. No abbreviations, no text speak.
- And they must be as close to 140 characters as possible. No short escape routes.
Younger year groups love them. They do not always find it easy but they do manage to condense what they love about the books they have read into short tweets; and isn’t that worth it? Pupils reflecting on their reading in a shorter, snappier and more memorable way. They also make great wall displays which can serve as a book recommendation wall.
This is not a substitute for real responses to literature. We still study challenging texts and respond in lengthy essays. It is part of the course still. But the time saved from marking meaningless, grudgingly-written, dull monotonous book reports can be used for good old fashioned reading time; and that’s the ONLY way to encourage young people to read.
Book tweets create a buzz about reading in the classroom. They are quick, short, snappy, fun and, genuinely, encourage an enjoyment of reading in any subject. Why not use them for quick fire revision notes. Everyone in class takes a different point and writes a tweet. It could work. And not a computer or techy tool in sight.
Some examples from this year’s S1 class:
‘Storm Catchers’ by Tim Bowler – Fraser
When Ella gets captured during the storm, the family also find out a bit more about their own past. More than they wanted to…
‘Sleepwalking’ by Nicola Morgan – Rebecca
People are programmed at birth to not have emotions like rage, sorrow etc. Some go wrong, called Outsiders. Really interesting and weird.
‘The Knife of Never Letting Go’ by Patrick Ness -Megan
Todd is the only almost- man in Prentiss town. A place where everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts. He finds a spot of complete silence…
‘Journey to the River Sea’ by Eva Ibbotson – Danielle
Maia, an orphan, is about to start a new life in the Amazon rainforest. But did Maia know what was ahead of her? This book is funny and true.