Book of Absolutely Useless Lists
by Philip Ardagh

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The introduction by Alec Williams provides lots of handy tips on getting everyone reading!


3. How should I use the list?

  • Have a good look at your budget first to see how many you can afford to buy. There are some brilliant books here that will help to develop your stock and the enthusiasm of your users. Here is an opportunity to make a big impact.
  • Get students involved in browsing the book list, and voting on the titles you could order. This will give them responsibility, make them feel valued, give them a sense of ownership of the books, and provide you with up-to-date information on student likes/dislikes.
  • Use reading groups, and pupil librarians to input to this process, too. Bear in mind that, if they’re avid readers, they may make ‘book-lovers’ choices’. Either stress the task of ‘choosing for all the school’, and get them talking to others, or add to their choices with evidence from other sources. What would non-users, and rare-users choose...?
  • Once books you’ve ordered have arrived, make use of any reading groups (or a temporary focus group of students) in discussions on how to promote them.
  • Read some of the books in this list that might be new to you. Children know when you’re bluffing about books; it’s important to gain their trust when creating readers, and keep up to date.
  • Ask students to review the titles, and display the reviews both on paper and on your school’s website. Why not ask your teaching and support staff colleagues to do this, too?
  • Tell the local public library service which titles you’re buying, so that they can check for extra copies, put displays in nearby libraries that your students use and improve your partnership working.
  • Display the new titles in the library, but consider too how to keep that display going. Nothing looks sadder than an empty display, so have book information and colour images of the cover designs always present, publicise your request service, and promote the local public library service, which might have additional copies (see above).
  • Send book boxes of the new titles, and ‘follow-ons’, around classes.
  • Prepare some ‘Liked this book? Then try these books!’ guidance, for the books you choose; this could be in bookmark or poster form, or even in stickers at the back of the books. Make sure any other library staff, and pupil librarians, are briefed to offer such suggestions when asked, or when the books are returned.
  • Make sure all teaching staff get a list of the new stock; there may be occasions when they can promote them, titles that they offer to read aloud for you, or occasions when fiction titles can assist other curriculum subjects.
  • Arrange for news of the new books to be mentioned in assemblies, and tutor time.
  • Check your stock for similar titles to display nearby, and/or order more.
  • Check the websites listed in the list and this introduction, and add any to your own favourites. Make sure they’re featured on the school website, and on library computers.
  • The general aim should be to cascade the books, and enthusiasm for them to the rest of the school. Don’t confine the buzz to just the library!

Supported by:

Department for Children, Schools and FamiliesSchool Library AssociationReading for Life

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