Have you drawn on the incredible experience, wisdom, energy and creativity of your school’s teacher librarian to support your child’s reading journey? These passionate literary guardians know books and the stories children love to read.

It’s not uncommon to find Cathy Oxley’s head buried in a book at night – but it’s what she reads that may surprise those who don’t know where she works.

Sci-fi, fantasy, action, dystopian and historical fiction novels are scattered around her home and, at times, she can even have three titles on the go at the same time.

The award-winning teacher librarian and Director of Information Services at Brisbane Grammar School (BGS) is passionate about her job and “loves getting out of bed every day to come to work”.

“I’m always reading books I think the students might like,” Cathy says.

“You have to be authentic when you’re promoting books to the boys because they can pick up in an instant if you haven’t read it,” she laughs.

The 2017 Queensland Teacher Librarian of the Year has been championing and promoting reading and literature to students across south-east Queensland for 30 years – the last 10 at BGS.

“I love seeing the boys’ eyes light up when you find them the right book or help them find the right information for an assignment,” Cathy says.

Ever speed dated a book?

Cathy and her two other teacher librarians run a range of promotions and events throughout the year to engage boys in books, such as author visits, book clubs, competitions, peer-recommended book reviews and Book Week parent breakfasts and events.

They’ve also devised some creative and fun ways to encourage boys to expand their reading horizons.

Most recently on Library Lovers’ Day Cathy ran a “speed date a book” activity with Year 8 students.

The boys were rotated around five tables featuring different books from the same genre. During each rotation they were given a minute to write down their “first impressions” of a book’s front cover, the back blurb, print size, white space and thickness.

They were then given three minutes to “get to know the book” by reading the first few pages. At the conclusion they had one minute to write their reflections on the book. If they liked it, they took it with them.

Cathy says the exercise challenged the students to give more time to their book selection process and to get them outside their reading comfort zone.

She says BGS fosters a “rich culture of reading” that normalises books in boys’ lives.

She says teachers, parents and teacher librarians are important partners and “enablers” of boys’ reading.

A personal account of engaging a reluctant reader

While reading may be effortless for some boys, Cathy knows from personal experience that it can be challenging and demotivating for others.

She says her own son, who is now grown, was not a natural reader and had no interest in attempting the chapter books he was expected to read in Year 5.

So, she went to the local library and borrowed an audio story on cassette tape and started playing it in the car on the way to and from school.

Her son became increasingly engrossed in the story. So much so, Cathy started reading to him at night from the same book.

In the end, her son became so impatient with waiting for someone else to read him the story, he picked up the book and started reading it himself.

“That’s the way he got hooked on reading,” Cathy recalls.

Her advice to parents is to make reading a meaningful and enjoyable part of everyday life and to show your children that you value it:

  • normalise reading at home and model reading where you can
  • encourage your child to talk about what they’re reading at school or what they’ve read online
  • listen to an e-book together, whether it’s in the car or at home during dinner preparation.

Reading recommendations

Cathy says: “Series are great for reluctant readers because the boys can go on an adventure with the main character again and again. They can develop a rapport with that character and know that they’ll still be there in the next book.”

Cathy and her team of dedicated teacher librarians have put together a list of book series they see boys coming back to “again and again and again”.

“We know from our experience, these are the titles the boys like.”

Year 5
  • Weirdo – Anh Do
  • Storey Treehouse – Andy Griffiths
  • Wonder – RJ Palacio
  • Story Thieves – James Riley
Year 6
  • Ranger’s Apprentice – John Flanagan
  • Keys to the Kingdom – Garth Nix
  • Alex Rider – Anthony Horowitz
  • Nevermoor – Jessica Townsend
  • Land of Stories – Chris Colfer
Year 7
  • Magisterium – Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
  • Eragon – Christopher Paolini
  • Medoran Chronicles – Lynette Noni
  • Don’t Call me Ishmael series – Michael Gerard Bauer
  • The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel – Michael Scott
  • Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer
Year 8
  • Lorien Legacies – Pittacus Lore
  • Divergent – Veronica Roth
  • Nemesis – Brendan Reichs
  • Alone – James Phelan
  • Maze Runner – James Dashner

BGS has a wealth of resources, reading advice and recommendations for boys on its library web page | READ MORE