Group leaders (mainly teachers) are supported with a printed guide, downloadable resources and a series of monthly webinars which facilitates idea sharing and helps to build a reading community.

Feedback from school leaders and teachers has been extremely positive. Denise Knight, Vice Principal at the Federation of Greenways school in Southend explained that it is not only the children that are being more adventurous with their reading but it has also expanded the teachers reading too, ‘It has been really useful to read the books alongside the pupils. Not only has it broadened our knowledge of children’s literature but also enabled us to recommend books that are similar for the pupils who have enjoyed them’. The impact is not limited to motivation to read, as Headteacher Laurence Garside at Felsted Primary said, the effect has also been seen on the children’s reading attainment. His Gladiator group made 29 months’ progress in just 8 months. And Melanie Mills, Headteacher at Albert Pye school in Beccles, was so impressed by the persuasive arguments put forward by her pupils, that she agreed that they should be allowed to take part again in 2017.

And what do the children think? Claire Williams from St Andrews in Halstead said she couldn’t contain the children’s enthusiasm. One of her pupils noticed how their skills for managing their own discussions had developed. ‘When we started Gladiators, you used to ask us questions but now you are just one of the group’.

Reading Gladiators started in 2015 with 100 schools mainly in the East of England and now the programme is burgeoning with new groups across the country from Bury to Bristol taking part in this year’s challenge. You can follow their progress on readinggladiators.

If you would like to know more, or get involved you can contact Reading Gladiators national co-ordinator, Caroline Bradley caroline@

Books mentioned: Boy in the Tower, Polly Ho-Yen, Corgi Children’s Books, 978-0-5525-6916-3, £6.99 pbk The Silver Donkey, Sonya Hartnett, illus Laura Carlin, Walker Books, 978-1-4063-0429-9, £6.99 pbk Flora and Ulysses, Kate di Camillo, illus K. G. Campbell, Walker Books, 978-1-4063-5456-0, £6.99 pbk

Nikki Gamble is Director of Just Imagine Story Centre and Associate Consultant at the University of London, Institute of Education.

Books for Keeps No.220 September 2016 5

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