Sunday, 10 June 2012

BOOKSELLER SUNDAYS: What greater pleasure? – Eve Griffiths at The Bookcase, Lowdham

The second in our new series of Sunday guest blogs by booksellers who work with children’s authors. These guest blogs are designed to show life behind the scenes of a crucial but neglected relationship – the one between a writer and a bookseller. These days, such relationships are more intense and more important, as increasing numbers of authors go on the road to promote children’s books – a goal shared by the booksellers who will contribute to this series.

The Bookcase is a ‘small independent bookshop with a big imagination’ situated in the village of Lowdham, eight miles north of Nottingham. The Bookcase’s proprietor is Jane Streeter (second from right), who runs the shop with a friendly team: Louise Haines, Jo Blaney, myself, Marion Turner and Kendall Turner (pictured left to right above).

Three years ago I (as one of the assistants) began a reading group at our local village school. This coincided with our 10th Annual Book Festival. So, to celebrate, I went in once a month until we had read 10 books. The 12 children read each book and then wrote a review, which formed the basis of a display at our book festival. We read all sorts – from contemporary authors to Enid Blyton and Richmal Crompton – and one poetry book. I have used a few different poetry books, but the first was Carol Ann Duffy’s The Hat, which was very timely as I’d handed it out to the children just before she was announced as the Poet Laureate! We’ve also used Gervase Phinn’s There’s an Alien in the Classroom, and others over the three years we’ve been involved in the project.

Each month I went into school so that we could have a discussion, which made the youngsters feel very grown up!

The idea became so popular that I have been approached by other schools, so this year I am working in four schools – always with Year 6 children. The group is aimed at the more able readers. (The thinking behind this is that so much is done to encourage the less able readers: those who are keen readers need some sort of outlet for their enthusiasm.)

This year, I have found a real difference in ability from one school to another. Not only is the reading ability markedly higher in one school, but the children are much more mature. This makes it harder for me to choose appropriate books, so I’m always keen to hear of the experiences of others who work with children of a similar age.

Michael Morpurgo is, of course, unfailingly popular, but I’ve also had real success with Michelle Paver’s Wolf Brother and Morris Gleitzman’s Once. In both cases, several of the children have gone on to read the sequels. We have offered a discount to reading group members who have ordered sequels.

After Christmas I will be discussing David Almond’s Skellig with two schools and Dogsbody by Diana Wynne Jones with our most able readers and Once with the fourth group.

After reading your blog, I have ordered a copy of Penny Dolan’s A Boy Called M O U S E to consider as one of next half-term’s books. With four schools to visit, I see each group once only per half-term, now. I really enjoy having one poetry book to discuss, and each member is expected to read aloud a poem of their choice. There is always one group member – usually a boy – who chooses the shortest in the book, so they then have to read a poem of my choosing!

One of the greatest joys I have experienced is a group of reading enthusiasts clamouring to tell you how much they have enjoyed a book. What greater pleasure can there be than to have introduced children to a book they love and an author they want to read again!

Please let me know of any really popular choices!

Eve Griffiths, The Bookcase

The Bookcase’s website:

Watch out for Independent Booksellers Week a campaign celebrating independents on the high street, which this year takes place between 30th June and 7th July.


catdownunder said...

We need more people doing this sort of thing! I always feel sorry for the more able readers - all too often left to their own devices. I had a group of more able readers once - took them off to meet one of our local and very well known authors - they reminded me of this years later!

Sue Purkiss said...

What a terrific idea! Who supplies the books, I wonder - the bookshop or the school?

Kate said...

What an inspiring blog! It's so good to know that booksellers are working with schools in such a proactive way and it sounds as though both you and the children get a great deal of pleasure from it. How fascinating as well that, as an 'outsider', you can see differences in reading ability between schools.

Mary Hoffman said...

The children will love A Boy called M.O.U.S.E.

What a great job you are doing!

Lynda Waterhouse said...

What a brilliant idea Eve and what a great way to introduce children to authors that they may not know about I run a couple of reading clubs in a local primary school.Josh Lacey's Island of Thieves and Ali Sparkes's Frozen in Time went down well. I also did a football theme with Tom Palmer and Helena Pielichaty's books.

adele said...

This is such a good idea! More strength to your elbow. I love the Bookcase and have very happy memories of my visit there some years back during the Lowdham Festival. Regards to all.

Emma Barnes said...

So the children are all reading the same books? Do they ever recommend the books themselves? That might be interesting, to see what they choose.

Sounds a wonderful idea and like others, I agree that more able readers deserve attention as much as the strugglers. Often, inevitably, there isn't much in their school library if they are advanced readers in Year 6.

How about Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh? Lots to discuss there.
Or if they enjoyed Just William then why not read some more contemporary funny authors as a comparison - I've just posted a new ABBA blog with plenty of suggestions! I think The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara
would be lots of fun and would also be full of ideas for them to discuss.