Refresh your reading for Upper KS2
By Ceridwen Eccles, Year 5 teacher at Manorfield CofE Primary School, Stoney Stanton
From 22nd April to 6th May 2022, you can get an extra 20% off all single titles recommended in this blog post with the code REFRESH20.†
I’ve always loved books. I was fortunate to grow up in a household where books were treasured and valued, and I experienced a vast range of diverse and exciting literature growing up as a child. I remember finding it surprising to discover that not all my friends read books, or indeed even liked them. This is ever true for children within the classes I teach. Every year, I can guarantee a parent will tell me their child doesn’t like books or won’t read. Children will tell me that themselves too. I nod and smile and simply say, ‘You’ve just not found the right book yet.’ I can see the doubt cross their face, hear their internal monologue contradicting me, and I mentally make a note of which children will most need my support on a journey of reading for pleasure. It’s important to remember as a teacher ‘The Rights of the Reader’ by Daniel Pennac and Quentin Blake, and respect that every reader is unique and we should support how they approach reading. If a book I suggest to a child is not being enjoyed, it is perfectly okay to say, ‘Well let’s put that one back and try something else’.
Supporting a child to take joy from reading independently isn’t easy. There will be many barriers that prevent them for engaging with texts. Reading fluency and comprehension need to be secure before a child can fully relax and immerse in a text and picking age appropriate texts, combined with books that do not make them feel like they are reading ‘baby books’ is paramount within an upper KS2 classroom. The Barrington Stoke book packs that can be found on the Scholastic Shop list are perfect for navigating this.
Recommended class reads
There are many books that I have adored using with children in upper KS2, but two that have always proven massive hits are Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend and Malamander by Thomas Taylor, both of which can be found on the Scholastic Shop, with class sets available to buy multiple copies at a discount to use within class. I have never taught a class in the last four years that has not fallen in love with either of these books. The rich vocabulary, intricately woven plots, drama and tension makes for shared class story time to be a real ‘cosy cuddle’ of joy and excitement.
Malamander by Thomas Taylor
is a mysterious, spooky tale set in the fictional seaside town of Eerie-On-Sea. We follow the adventures of Herbert Lemon, the hotel lost-and-founder, and a feisty young girl called Violet Palmer, who bundles into Herbie’s life needing help to solve the disappearance of her parents 12 years ago. There is a stellar cast of supporting characters ranging from the wildly eccentric Mrs Fossil, the deliciously terrifying Boathook Man, to the Miss-Havisham-like recluse that is Lady Kraken, owner of the hotel who lives in the attic, spying on the town’s residents with her cameraluna.
When selecting a class read, I will always read the book myself first. I will look at it with head and heart. I want a text that is going to be challenging and deliver high quality vocabulary and skilfully constructed prose, but I also want to be swept away in the moment and fall in love with the book. I like to combine my reading and writing lessons with the class read as I feel it builds so much more excitement and allows the children to connect more deeply with the text. This ultimately allows for the children to enjoy story time and fully immerse in the world being woven around them in their imagination. I love combining the Arts together for this and often allow the children to paint and act out the roles of characters.
For me, the biggest proof I have that a book has been a hit is when children independently go out and buy copies of the text themselves, re-read it from the class library or want to read the sequels. Two children I have taught this year, Tristan and Tom, have loved the book so much that they went on to read the second instalment in the series, Gargantis, and then the third, Shadowghast.
“I wanted to read Gargantis straight away as I adore spooky books and hoped the sequel would be just as scary. It was even scarier and I never expected the plot twist!” –
Tristan, Year 5
“I loved listening to Malamander in class and really wanted to read more. I couldn’t pick which is my favourite as love them all.” –
Tom, Year 5
Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend
is another book that has proven hugely popular and well received in class over the years too. Nevermoor is a magical story set in a fictional universe and follows the adventures of a wonderfully unique character called Morrigan Crow, who is a cursed child, destined to die on her twelve birthday. The children are always shocked and immediately drawn in as the opening prologue starts with the funeral of our main character and the excitement and tension of whether she will live or die is palatable in the air. Again, like Malamander, there is a wonderful range of diverse characters that pop off the page and their personalities are so cleverly constructed by Jessica Townsend that it is easy to picture them in your head as you read. One of the things that the children I have taught over the years love about Nevermoor is that despite the fear, tension and magical intrigue, there are many hilarious moments. As a teacher, seeing children burst into spontaneous laughter as I am reading is priceless. Their joy becomes my joy.
Nevermoor has become more than a book to share at story time; I have built the literacy in class for the entire Spring Term around this glorious text so as well as following the adventures in the story, they become part of their wider learning. On World Book Day this year, I asked the class what their favourite book was, and around a third said it was Nevermoor. Again, this was shown by the large number of children who not only went onto read the second book in the series The Wundersmith, but also the third, Hollowpox, like Mason and Martha:
Harry Potter has been my favourite book for a long time as I love magical stories. But then when we read Nevermoor, I found a new magical series to love. I can’t wait for book four to come out and keep checking with Miss Eccles if she has got it yet.” –
Mason, Year 5
“I remember my big brother reading Nevermoor with Miss Eccles a few years ago and he loved it so much he bought it. When I found out it was going to be our next class read, I read it myself and it was brilliant. I had to read the sequel to find out more straight away. I’m currently reading Hollowpox and loving it.” –
Martha, Year 5
There are many other books that I have loved using with the children I have taught in upper KS2 over the years, here is a short selection of some firm favourites that both myself and the children have loved, all of which can be found on the Scholastic Shop.
You can find Ceridwen Eccles on Twitter @Teacherglitter.
†Cannot be used in conjunction with any other offers. Can only be used once per customer. Offer excludes book packs. Bulk orders of more than 15 book packs or individual titles can only be accepted for delivery to a school setting and not to individual or business addresses. Offer ends at 11.59pm on Friday 6th May.