Making non-fiction books in Reading: one school’s experience

National Non-Fiction November provides an opportunity to highlight some of the great non-fiction books around and celebrate reading non-fiction for pleasure. With so many ideas and resources on offer from FCBG, Chris Routh of Reading CBG decided to try and make much more of the event this year.

Chris says: ‘We started by making bunting to decorate our non-fiction area using a simple template, the NNFN logo and some inexpensive orange ribbon. Although the paper bunting is still in good enough condition to use again, I would like to involve students in designing the pennants next year. We also made a wall display of posters featuring titles recommended by staff and a table-top display of books.
I wanted to get as many staff involved as possible and invited all our teaching and support staff to create a poster for their classroom or office door recommending a non-fiction title they’d recently enjoyed reading. We provided a template with a choice of captions which staff completed by adding the title, the book cover and a brief comment; we printed and laminated the posters which appeared around the school on the first of November. On each day of the month we highlighted one of the teachers’ choices on the electronic notice board at the entrance to the dining room. A great way to promote books to a captive audience in the lunch queue.
Not surprisingly the books chosen by teachers were mainly of interest to senior students, so I also slipped in a few titles aimed at younger readers. However, a good range of resources were promoted  – from magazines to books about painting, poetry, politics and psychology. One self-confessed non-reader even recommended the Screwfix catalogue! Perhaps not quite as flippant as it may sound – this is a great example of reading for a specific purpose and how we often use a range of different techniques when reading non-fiction (dipping into, browsing etc.). This exercise provided everyone with an interesting insight into what staff read for pleasure and one colleague commented that she’d found the recommendations really interesting and had added a couple of titles to her own Christmas present list.
We also designed a scavenger hunt for Y7 & 8 library lessons. This proved to be a timely reminder about how to locate books in the library which linked with a research exercise Y8 were undertaking in their Approaches to Learning lessons. Some of our Y7s reviewed and voted for their favourite books on the shortlist for the School Library Association Information Book Award. This is one of two non-fiction awards to be announced during November – the other being The Royal Society Young People’s Book Prize.
We also looked at the SLA IBA shortlist at the November meeting of our local FCBG Children’s Book Group held on our local public library. We were impressed by the insightful comments made by the children, who had no trouble deciding on their own favourites; and the adults and children alike enjoyed playing the author Selfie Shelfie Game – one of the excellent resources designed by Zoe Toft for NNFN.
As the main theme for this year was ‘Making Books’ we gave Y7 & 8 Book Club the opportunity to do some creative book making during two workshops led by a former textiles teacher. These took the form of simple origami books which were decorated with stitching, images and natural objects found around the school grounds.
This has been a bumper year – have you seen the list of 100 Brilliant Non-Fiction Books for Children – and I am already looking forward to planning next year’s events!
Sadly, this is the last year that Zoe Toft will be organising NNFN, so on behalf of FCBG I’d like to take the opportunity to thank her for developing the initiative from a super single day to a whole magnificent month of celebrating non-fiction publishing and reading’.
Thank you to Chris, Vice Chair, and all her students and colleagues for their support.

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