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Looking for a Great Middle Grade Book? Try #BookMatch

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As a school librarian in South London, UK, I’m constantly trying to find amazing books to put into the hands of students. I work with ages 11–19, so there is a huge range of different novels that appeal to them and a very wide range of backgrounds, cultures and abilities that I’m trying to find books for. It’s a great challenge and I love doing it, I also love it when I come across amazing initiatives like #BookMatch.

Capturing the attention of students is difficult with so many distractions out there. Luckily there is also a massive amount of great literature to read, books that can truly hook students and keep them coming back for more. The challenge for many schools, especially in the UK, is having the time and money to get access to these books. In the UK we have a situation where celebrity-written books are dominating the shelves at the local supermarkets. Yes, if a student is reading a book by a celebrity, at least they are reading; however, these books often do not reflect the experiences of many children and this mono-approach to publishing is damaging.

Also, many schools in the UK don’t have a qualified librarian in place, sometimes they don’t even have a room for said librarian to work, let alone put books on the shelves. I’ve been a librarian in the UK for eight years now and the number of librarians I’ve spoken to that have left or been made redundant is alarming.

So, even when you have a librarian in place, it can be tricky to get students reading, and not just reading, but engaging in books that they need, even if they don’t know they needed it.

For example, here’s a quote from a Year 7 (11-year-old student) after he read Crater Lake by Jennifer Killick (which you should all go out and buy right now BTW): “This is first books I’ve read front to back with chapters. It is very special to me. Even me, who struggles reading and usually can not do it, it made me try my hardest because the plot was so awesome.”

This was amazing to read, and it’s not a book that you’ll find proudly on display on the supermarket shelves, although it should be. This book was sent to me by the publisher, Firefly Press, as an early proof copy, and after reading it I decided that every student ages 11 and up should be aware of it so I promoted the hell out of it.

It has worked! Crater Lake has been consistently one of the most popular books at our school, and we issue on average over 1,000 books a month. I’m sorry, but this kind of awareness about these novels simply will not happen without a librarian or teacher in place that is passionate about reading. Enter #BookMatch.

#BookMatch is the creation of Scott Evans, a Primary (Elementary) School Teacher in South Wales. His web site, The Reader Teacher, is a treasure trove of book lists, reviews, recommendations, and even Christmas Gift Guides.

What I love about #BookMatch is that Evans has created a huge series of read-alike posters that can be downloaded as a PDF. You can also click a link to buy these from Bookshop.org, another amazing initiative that supports independent bookshops here in the UK.

I’ve written before on what I do when a student tells me they hate to read. In many ways, it can be more challenging when a student says to me “I really love X, can you recommend any good books like that?” This is sometimes when my mind freezes, it’s like when people ask you the time and you suddenly realise you’ve forgotten how to read a wrist watch.

#BookMatch is perfect because each poster provides similar books on a wide variety of topics and series. Each poster contains 12 books. There are currently 44 posters to check out and download for free.

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