I have blogged a few times about how to hook readers for pleasure, and I have mentioned social media quite a few times. However, two years into our reading for pleasure journey, we are stronger than ever and there’s no way a lot of this cannot be attributed to social media. So how can we use it? And why does it work?
It started in an after school book club: we were studying the opening chapter of Maz Evans’ ‘Who Let The Gods Out?’. One of the children had a question about the novel to which I literally did not know the answer. After umming and ahhing for a few moments I suggested I would find Maz on Twitter and ask her. So I did. Literally two minutes later, Maz had replied. The kids hit the roof! They could not believe that a real author, whose book they were reading, had replied. We asked several more and ended up spending the whole rest of our reading club talking to Maz. They talked about it for the rest of the year.
After this, we were hooked. Whenever we read anything we tweeted the author (unless they weren’t on Twitter or were no longer with us). Anyone who had a question about a book, I sent it. They ALL answered (except JK Rowling, whose Twitter feed must be literally terrifying).
At the time, we made such a good connection with Peter Bunzl, the novelist who wrote our class novel at the time ‘Cogheart’, that he asked if he could Skype in with my class. Of course he could! We spent forty minutes chatting to him on Skype in the classroom and the impact it had on reading was phenomenal.
We had the bug. Authors and children were having regular discourse and some little friendships were even formed. We had a lovely relationship between a Year 6 girl called Sarah who had what can only be called an ‘obsession’ with the author Abi Elphinstone. One morning she pleaded with me to tweet Abi to ask me when her third book would be out, as she was having ‘withdrawal symptoms’. Well, imagine her reaction when this was the reply:
That’s right, the start of the book – just for Sarah! Then there was the post…
Her own copy! Signed! And the icing on the cake?
Sarah’s name went into her newest book Sky Song! If you open this book anywhere, you will find it! That is a child’s reading habits changed FOREVER. This child will always be a reader because she had contact with an author.
On World Book Day, we made videos about the books we were reading – MG Leonard liked this one so much, it went on her website!
Another child’s life and reading transformed. She beamed as she stood at the front of assembly and showed that she was on a real author’s website.
Speaking of children on websites – Lucy in Year 6’s review got her features on Eloise Williams’ website.
Another child’s reading changed forever.
We went on to have an author week, where every class in school communicated with authors through social media:
Children loved it and went on to write their own books:
Our journey doesn’t end there though. Some year groups published their book reviews on Amazon – a way for millions of people to read their writing and a really good way to inspire quality writing. Well, imagine my surprise when Piers Torday got in touch and asked if he could use one. And imagine Omer’s reaction when he found his name in a book:
Plus through social media, you can find all sorts of competitions. In one, the author Jennifer Killick was asking children to create their own countryside animals. The prize? The best would be written into her new novel, ‘Alex Sparrow and the Furry Fury’. Well, one Year 3 came up with this.
Need I say more than show this cover?
That’s right, Harry the Horse will appear in her new book. She also won her class a free author visit from Jennifer.
The stuff on here is literally the tip of the iceberg. I would estimate every class and at least ten individual children make contact with an author a week in school.
For me, this is 100000% the best way to get kids into reading. There are hundreds if not thousands of authors out there who are thrilled to communicate with the children.
So get your school or yourself on Twitter and get kids ASKING. Get kids COMPLIMENTING and get kids READING. Authors love it – after all, it’s a direct line with their main audience.
Whilst you might not get kids names into books, you might get kids noses into books, and that’s the main aim, isn’t it?