Give a Book Breakfast Book Clubs

I would like to explain why I think backing Give a Book’s crowdfunding campaign, to support 10 new Breakfast Book Clubs in schools in 2021, is an extremely worthwhile thing to do.

Breakfast clubs are an ideal environment to run reading and cross-age activities because the children are present in mixed ages, many of them for a full hour together, so they have plenty of time to eat their healthy breakfast and engage in activities.

We know that Ofsted approve of children engaging in enriching cross-age activities, such as reading, in this valuable hour before school: ‘The inspector commented positively on the reading focus at the sessions. (During Breakfast Club) He commented on the excellent peer support and skills in questioning.’ Emma Bolton – Headteacher, Queens Park Academy, Bedford 2019

When Give a Book generously supported a Book Club to run alongside the Breakfast Club Reading Pals project the results surpassed all of our expectations. Training and resources were given to Older Reading Pals, so they could be responsible for running Reading Pals and the Book Club, with only light touch supervision from Breakfast Staff. The Monitors set-up the resources, paired up the older and younger readers and made sure their progress was recorded. They gave out reward stickers and encouragement and then put all of the resources away, before going to class. The school chose children who regularly attended the club, who would benefit from having some additional responsibility to help their confidence and self-esteem and who needed additional encouragement to attend regularly and on time.

Initially the cross- age pairs would use the Reading Pals structure of levelled books and pre-written scaffold scripts. After a while, having gained experience in all levels of comprehension questions and gaining confidence in talking to their peers about books, the children would move onto choosing books from the Book Club. Reading Pals provided the training and the Give a Book Book Club provided the wide range of modern, stimulating books needed to keep the children engaged in reading. The Monitors acted as librarians, helping the children to choose a book they would enjoy and booking it out for them to take home. Many of the children would have a very limited choice of books at home and it was easy to tell from their excitement that it was a real treat to have such a wide choice.

An outcome that was extremely positive for some of the more vulnerable children, is that the Older Pals asked staff if they could write in the children’s reading record homework books. Some of the parents were not reading with the children at home, or writing in their reading record books. This can be quite stressful and demoralising for children who don’t have the satisfaction of having completed their homework and can’t make the same progress as their peers. While schools continued to work with parents to engage them in this process, it was possible for these children to read in the Breakfast Book Club and the Older Pal would listen, discuss and write a comment in their reading record book for the teacher to read. This meant these children could start the school day positively, without worrying about not having evidence of having read at home.

The age range of the children in the breakfast club meant that the older children could provide a positive role model of engaging in reading and sharing with younger children which authors they enjoyed.

Give a Book also provide stationary and many of the children spontaneously used their writing books to write reviews or start writing their own stories.

Some people might say that Breakfast Club should be a time to relax and this is true. What we experienced is that children who were free to choose other activities in the club, chose to engage in the reading activities at least once a week, some children chose reading every day. They were attracted to being able to actively engage with older or younger peers and to the lovely, new books on offer.

St Aloysius Infants School, Camden

The Learning Mentor used Reading Pals as the reason to invite children, she considered to be most vulnerable, to come to a free, targeted breakfast club. She nominated Monitors who would set-up and put away the books and the children worked independently, leaving her free to supervise the breakfast. All children were expected to eat their healthy breakfast first. There were other activities available so the children could rotate activities but many chose to do Reading Pals every morning. There was a significant positive impact on attendance, lateness and behaviour issues in class for the children who joined the breakfast provision. Using Reading Pals as the reason for the invitation meant more parents brought their children to school earlier and it removed stigma associated with an invitation based on low income alone.

The Forest Academy – Rebecca Hancock, Literacy Coordinator, PhD with specialist interest in literacy

Good news though… We kicked PALS off last Friday. It’s going really well. Each person has their own partner that they always read with – I’ve done it this way so that we always have the two year age gap.Every member has their own pass/badge that they wear all day (and love). They also receive one sticker every time they read and a bonus point (points they collect to spend in the prize shop) if they read two days in a row. We are going to have ‘reading pair of the week’ in our celebration assemblies too.’

Reading Pals in School

Make Friends With Books

Our school has been using the Reading Pals Scheme for a little over an academic year now and we have seen a real impact in a number of learning behaviours linked to the scheme. All older pals that have been trained and their younger pals have indicated that they look forward to the sessions and enjoy reading more in a pupil voice survey. The sessions are always very well attended in school given that we have now trained two waves of older pals, but we have also seen a rise in the number of children voluntarily attending breakfast club to support younger readers. During a recent Ofsted inspection, the schools breakfast club was observed and the inspector commented positively on the reading focus at the sessions. He commented on the excellent peer support and skills in questioning.’ Emma Bolton – Headteacher at Queens Park Academy, Bolton

Anyone who loves reading knows how much benefit books bring to our lives. They fill our mind with interesting characters, give us safe and exciting places to escape to in difficult times, help us to make sense of the world, inspire and educate us.

Reading Pals is an intervention that is proving to increase children’s comprehension and their enjoyment of reading. The adjective most frequently used by children to describe Reading Pals is ‘fun.’ Adults running the sessions report that even children who are normally reluctant to read are coming happily to the sessions and proactively asking to be included in future sessions. Teaching the Older Pals the four levels of comprehension questions gives them the skills needed to help them and their younger Pal fully investigate the meaning of the text.

The ‘magic’ of the Reading Pals scheme lies in the cross-age relationships. The older children, some of who may even be reluctant readers themselves, love the new responsibility and engage in the activity and reading with enthusiasm. Similarly the Younger Pals are so pleased to have the support and attention of their older peers that they will happily engage in the activity, even if they normally lack confidence or interest in reading. The books work as a catalyst to develop their relationships, the relationships then increase the motivation to work together and develop reading skills and enjoyment. The children engage in interesting discussions stimulated by the books and the scripts that strengthen their relationships while developing vital speaking and listening skills. The discussions increase the relevance of the stories to the children’s lives and they experience for themselves how their lives can be supported and enriched by books.

Surveys conducted in the SHS/GiveABook/ReadingPals pilot illustrate how the scheme led to a positive rise in reading enjoyment and confidence after only a few weeks.

The comprehension scripts act as scaffolding to teach the Older Pals the different levels of questions that can be asked to ensure their reading partner has fully understood the text. The questions are chosen to encourage higher level thinking, interesting discussions and to help the children identify with and learn from the ideas in the books. Focusing on comprehension discourages ‘barking at print,’ when children appear to be reading fluently but are not fully comprehending what they are.

Many children do not have the opportunity to read to others, having this time with an peer helps their reading and gives them time where they feel they are ‘heard’ and their reading abilities are acknowledged and encouraged.

See the Contact page for information about cost to schools.

Five Steps to Mental Wellbeing


  • Strong relationships with family and friends allow us to share our feelings and know that we’re understood.
  • They provide an opportunity to share positive experiences, and can give us emotional support.
  • They give us a chance to support others, something else that’s known to promote mental wellbeing.
  • There’s also evidence that wellbeing can be passed on through relationships.
  • Being around people with strong mental wellbeing can improve your own mental wellbeing.

Staff and children who have used Reading Pals all agreed that it led to strong friendships, that were mutually supportive. Often these friendships continued into the playground. The questions facilitate discussions that allow the children to share their experiences with each other and thereby build empathy.


Learning often involves interacting with other people. This can also increase our wellbeing by helping us build and strengthen social relationships.

 Reading Pals scripts teach the children how to facilitate reading and develop good communication skills. Learning new skills will help the children to feel more confident in their literacy but also in their ability to interact with others successfully.

  • Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness, small and large, are associated with positive mental wellbeing.
  • Giving to others and co-operating with them can stimulate the reward areas in the brain, creating positive feelings.
  • Helping and working with others can also give us a sense of purpose and feelings of self-worth.
  • Giving our time to others in a constructive way helps us strengthen our relationships and build new ones.
  • Relationships with others also help mental wellbeing.

 Reading Pals gives the children opportunities to help others. Older Pals are supporting Younger Pals, who can then go on to help their younger peers. Being of benefit to others is often particularly important to children from socially deprived backgrounds, or children who have not developed strong self-esteem. Understanding they have skills and qualities that will be of benefit to others impacts positively on their confidence and feelings of self-worth.

  • Be more aware of the present moment, including your thoughts and feelings, your body and the world around you. Some people call this awareness “mindfulness”. It can positively change the way you feel about life and how you approach challenges.
  • An important part of mindfulness is reconnecting with our bodies and the sensations they experience. This means waking up to the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment. That might be something as simple as the feel of a banister as we walk upstairs.

As an introduction to the Reading Pals sessions the children engage in short activities that help them to focus on the present moment, using physical sensation, breath and sound. Helping them to let go temporarily of distracting thoughts and feelings.


School Home Support/Give a Book/Reading Pals 

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School Home Support Practitioners after receiving training in supervising Reading Pals introduced the scheme into 8 Islington primary schools.

The training and resources were provided by Reading Pals and all books were provided by Give a Book. The Practitioners were able to use the scheme to develop their selected children’s confidence and literacy skills. In each school the Practitioners were able to adapt the scheme according to the priorities and needs of their children and individual schools.



Both the Practitioners and the children have been very enthusiastic about the scheme which is commonly described as ‘fun!’ Evaluation forms and feedback have been regularly collected by the Practitioners, providing clear evidence of the success of the scheme in each school. Success is measured in terms of engagement of the children, increase in their confidence and skills in literacy and development of emotional and social well-being.


In three of the Islington schools Give a Book have also provided a Book Club, consisting of 100 books, stationery and pencils. The Reading Pals children are able to use their cross-age reading skills with children who come to use the wide-range of stimulating books.