Book Clubs in Schools

'A peer-on-peer activity that needs minimal work from me and has a great impact on reading for pleasure' - Pauline Lawrence, Library Manager & Independent Learning Coordinator, Haverstock School

Book Clubs in Schools (BCiS) promotes reading for pleasure in schools through school book clubs. Our core programme trains older pupils (Y10-12) to lead book clubs for younger pupils (Y6-8) using a structured week by week discussion and activity plan which offers a sustainable programme that is easily scaleable and straightforward for schools to run. We run a Summer Book Club for pupils making the move from primary to secondary school and a range of events for schools and teachers to support their knowledge of children's books and authors. 

Our Patron is Alex Wheatle, MBE, best selling and Carnegie nominated author of 17 books.

"I understand that some students can find it difficult to engage with reading and think it’s vitally important to publish more diverse fiction that engages and relates to students. I know first-hand that reading can also promote empathy, compassion and understanding of others, which is why the Book Clubs in Schools’ work resonates with me”

By providing a framework for young people to access and discuss books, BCiS reintroduces reading for pleasure at a point when many young people disengage from books. Our format helps them practise critical thinking, build interpersonal skills, and access volunteering opportunities. We prioritise schools in disadvantaged areas with over 40% pupil premium (national average is 26.9%) . Since we started, over 13,000 pupils have participated in Book Clubs in Schools core programme from over 90 schools. 

There is strong evidence that young people who enjoy reading the most perform significantly better in reading literacy assessments than who enjoy reading the least (Clark & Douglas, 2011) and that this can be more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002). Yet we also know that there are real issues around reading for pleasure, particularly at secondary age, with fewer than 1 in 2 (47.8%) children aged 8 to 18 saying that they enjoyed reading in 2022. Reading enjoyment also decreases with age, from 75.4% 5- to 8-year-olds, to 45.6% of those aged 11 to 16.(NLT Annual Literacy Survey 2022).I In addition, there is evidence that pupils in Key Stage 3 (11 to 14) experienced the greatest learning loss in reading as a result of educational disruption in the pandemic (Understanding Progress in the 2020/21 Academic Year, Renaissance Learning, Education Policy Institute for DfE 2022).

Our feedback surveys find that schools and teachers see increased participation and motivation in class, as well as a stronger sense of community and sense of belonging to the school. Having run Book Clubs in Schools for eight years our self- evaluation survey results indicate that out of the pupils who participate in the programme, 70% enjoy reading more, 61% made new friends, 58% feel more comfortable debating and 57% feel more confident speaking. Amongst the Book Club Leaders, 97% would recommend others to become leaders, 82% learnt how to facilitate conversations and to be more inclusive and 76% felt more confident leading.

From self-evaluation surveys, we have learnt that through participating in book clubs, pupils have begun to consider reading as something to do in their downtime and have discovered that they like to chat face-to-face, rather than by text or whilst gaming. Girls, in particular, who often lack self-confidence, find the courage to express their point of view and defend it, while others, mainly boys, are forced to use evidence from the book to back their opinions. Everyone learns to agree to disagree whilst maintaining respect for each other.

This mirrors findings from academic research, e.g. Clark and Rumbold for the National Literacy Trust found that “reading for pleasure is linked to increases in general knowledge,understanding of other cultures and community participation. Recreational reading events, such as book clubs, are linked to enhanced social skills [and] decreased loneliness.” To gather more detailed evidence the Mercers Charity is supporting us to work with the Open University over the next three years to evaluate our programme.

We were able to create this film with thanks to MediaTrust and funding from the Charity of Sir Richard Whittington, via The Mercers' Company.

Director - Stevie Jeram 

UN Sustainable Development Goals

We align with the following UN Sustainable Development Goals:

Entries in previous Charity Film Awards