Reading Gladiators™ : The Ultimate Book Club

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New and improved

I have been involved in many book clubs over the years and they have varied in format and membership. As an attendee and as a group leader, I have always liked being introduced to new titles and authors that I hadn’t previously encountered and would have been unlikely to seek out independently. I loved having the opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings and to hear the views of others. Entering into a healthy debate gives me a buzz and a deeper connection to the story in question. So, for me, the answer to the question below in one word is ENGAGEMENT.

What makes an effective book club? 

The number one priority of any book club must be engagement. A book club is typically voluntary, so members should like it enough to attend of their own volition. This doesn’t mean they have to love every title and write a meaningless review about how ‘great’ it was, followed by a 10/10. We owe it to children to offer much more than that. If we are to teach children to think independently, we need to create a space where that can happen.

The key considerations include purpose and impact 


  • What do we want for those pupils who become members of the club? 
  • What do we want for the school community as a whole?

We want a safe space for club members to freely discuss their thoughts, opinions, and responses to good quality books. We want to offer a range of writers and artists to broaden their reading repertoires and expose them to a breadth of genre and format. Extracurricular activities provide a channel for reinforcing the lessons learned in the classroom. Evidence suggests that those children who partake in these activities are more likely to be high achievers in the classroom.

A well-managed school book club can extend far beyond the members of the group, who are perfect candidates to become reading ambassadors and advocate reading for pleasure throughout the school community through sharing the books they have been introduced to. Their role could include creating displays, presentations in assemblies, poetry raiders, or taking on legacy projects such as establishing a library forum or introducing a reading event to the school calendar.

The Ultimate Book club: Quality over Quantity

Reading should not be a race. Yes we all want children to read more but:

quality of text, quality of understanding and quality of reading experience should be the priority of any good book club.

Reading Gladiators™ is a reading resource based on research* and indicators that show even children of mid to high attainment often make limited reading choices due to what is visible, well-known or prominently marketed. While children should always be encouraged to choose their own books and adults need to value their choices, teachers and librarians have an enabling role in broadening children’s reading repertoires. Supporting readers through a book club format can help children access new books and discover new authors, including those that might not be accessible to them without the gentle guidance of a reading mentor. In its 7th year and with a Teach Primary Resource Award and a finalist in both the BETT and ERA awards, Reading Gladiators™ is trialled, tested and has proven its value. This is not a taught programme. If you are looking for the same principles applied to a teaching framework, you may be interested in Take One Book – our book-based teaching resource. In most schools, Reading Gladiators™ is run as a book club.

It is a targeted book club for which you select the members – children who you think will gain the most benefit from attending. Choose carefully – the content is aimed at mid-high attainers. However, interest and motivation go a long way and it’s vital that children attend the group because they want to. You will know which children will benefit from taking part in the discussions, supported by their peers. Engagement is key. The Reading Gladiators™ format is to start with high-interest books at the beginning of the year and move incrementally to a greater depth. In our new format, we have indicated which titles work well at different times of the year and how one book might be juxtaposed against another to develop more nuanced appreciation of themes.



Reading Gladiators ™: skills for life

We communicate through story. Our story and the story of others. By recognising the narrative of others through meeting a wide array of characters, children can develop their emotional literacy and, by making connections with characters on a personal level, develop their empathy skills. Exploring characters through dialogue with their peers – considering how they engage with the world, children can challenge stereotypes and find inspiration from meeting characters with courage, resilience, perseverance, optimism and hope. Well-chosen stories with multi-layered characters can provide excellent models for ways of dealing with anything life throws at you.

More than that, the experience of sharing beliefs in a group encourages mopral, ethical and philosophical discussion – an appreciation off alternative ways of thinking.I n a world where following the crowd is all too easy, we need to help children to develop their individual understanding, interpretation, their own judgement, and questioning skills. By providing a space and a structure for these things to happen, we are supporting children to think for themselves, to be curious about the world around them and to question what they do not understand.

New flexible structure with free book choice

We have made several major changes to our award-winning book club resource, including the freedom to select the titles you want to use and an annual subscription that provides access to ALL the available session notes and resources for a particular year group. This means that you can use books from previous years as well as our new titles

Meet the author with Reading Gladiators™ : The Ultimate Book Club

Throughout the year there will be opportunities for your Reading Gladiator groups to attend virtual book club sessions with the authors of the new titles that we are adding to the book selection. We are incredibly excited about the opportunity that this gives the children to ask questions about the books that they have been reading and to learn more about the way the books were written.

Find out more about the new flexible structure of Reading Gladiators™ on the About Page.
and to join for September 2021 go to the Booking Page.


A Reading Gladiators ™ Group Leader’s Experience

Stephen Connor from Weston on Trent CofE Primary School shares his experience of running a Reading Gladiators™group in Year 6.

Reading Gladiators

I would encourage anyone thinking about it to get involved

* 4XR: developing excellence in reading