How to use Big Books produced by publishers

Although publishers have come a long way over the past year in the range of Big Books they produce, most teachers will still need and want to produce their own. This is particularly the case for teachers with larger classes because the publishers are not as yet producing Big Books with text size big enough for larger groups of children. It is also necessary as there is not a range and number of Big Books available to cover all the requirements of the Literacy Strategy.

There are a number of options for providing large text for the shared reading element of the Literacy Strategy. These are documented below with advantages and disadvantages of such a choice.

Using Big Books produced by publishers


Details on Big Books currently published are discussed earlier in our previous article.


-Children get good experience of handling a ‘real’ book and its format and layout
-Enables children to quickly refer to earlier/later parts of the text to compare and contrast
-Page turning and book handling can be modelled by the teacher
-Colour illustrations are usually included and add an extra dimension to the text
-Teacher resources and planning suggestions are often included
-As smaller pupil copies are often available, the teacher is able to link guided reading and independent work to the text


-Often text size is not big enough for use with larger groups
-It is expensive to resource a school
-As yet publishers do not produce enough texts to fulfil all requirements of the Literacy Strategy

Writing out text excerpts


This can be done using marker pens of a variety of colours onto easel paper.


-Easy and cheap to produce, without technology
-Enables you to produce text of a suitable size for your group


-Time consuming
-Cannot be used again unless a plastic overlay is used
-Doesn’t give children the experience of text types, fonts or book handling


Enlarging using a photocopier


This is the most popular way to produce texts of suitable size for whole class use but also wastes the most time and paper.


-Enables text format to remain the same
-Teachers can use existing resources; new ones are not required
-Pages could be stuck into a large book to be used again and to give children experience of handling a ‘real’ book, with blurb, contents page etc
-Gets quicker with practice, as you become aware of enlargement percentages necessary for different sized books


-Quality of print is lost as text is enlarged
-Time consuming
-Wastes a lot of paper
-Illustrations are in black and white
-Text cannot be annotated unless you don’t want to keep it, or a plastic overlay is used
-Many texts, once enlarged to provide a suitable text size, are too large to attach to an easel.


Using the computer to produce text


This can be done by typing text at a font size of at least 35pt, printing out onto A4 paper and enlarging the text by photocopying onto A3 paper. These pages can then be used to make a Big Book. This procedure can be greatly speeded up if you scan in the page/pages you require and use an OCR package to convert it into editable text.


-Fairly quick to do if an OCR package is used
-Enables you to produce text of a suitable size for your group
-Can be used to make a Big Book
-Children can easily produce their own material for the shared reading session
-Different font styles and layout can be produced


-Time consuming if typed
-Text needs thorough checking if an OCR package is used


Using an overhead projector


Acetate sheets can easily be produced using most photocopiers. A page from a book can be directly photocopied onto an A4 acetate sheet and then projected in the classroom, with an ability to vary size until it is most suitable.


-No enlarging necessary
-Retains the format of the page
-A4 size means they are easy to store in a file
-Less patronising for older Juniors
-Allows you to display more text
-Can be annotated, wiped off and used again


-Restricted by the availability of the OHP
-Classroom needs to be suitable for clear projection (dark curtains, white wall/screen etc)
-Need for darkness hinders children’s ability to carry out such tasks as taking notes from the text
-Children don’t get the experience of handling a ‘real’ book


It is expensive to resource a school


Whenever new strategies are introduced and taken on-board there is a huge initial outlay to resource it. Indeed, the Literacy Strategy is one that does require many resources in order that the objectives can be achieved and good progress can be observed. Whilst many resources already used in schools are still suitable and useful, the hurdle of needing to use Big Books has to be overcome.

Until there is an increasing range and number of Big Books available teachers will need to juggle between the books the school is able to purchase and the texts the teacher wishes to use. Whilst calculating the number of Big Books a class will get through in a year will result in shock, horror and panic, it must never be forgotten how versatile these books are. There is no harm in revisiting a text later in school if the aim is to pick-up and cover objectives of a higher level. reading booksWhile earlier aims may be direct teaching of reading using rhyme cues, later the same text could be used to examine dialect, character and plot. Many of the Big Books designed for young children to read with teacher modelling and intervention, can easily be used with younger Juniors reading independently and focussing on other aspects of the text such as punctuation, prediction and paragraphing. Versatility is particularly so in the case of non-fiction. Few texts of this format are needed because the majority of whole class teaching involves layout and style of these texts – text does not have to be perfectly aimed at the ability of the class as long as format can be illustrated. Thus, Infant and Junior departments could manage with as few as five non-fiction texts each, encouraging overlap between the transition years.

Publishers are beginning to produce Big Book anthologies that contain a number of text types and styles and though books of length, complexity and depth will also be needed, these anthologies are a good way to quickly resource the whole school with least expense.

A combination approach will be most successful. Purchasing Big Books that have the most comprehensive coverage of ability and Literacy Strategy Objectives, and making books that teachers know will be successful and appropriate for their own children. In this way an extensive library can be developed, continually expanding in its breadth and choice. A whole school approach.


Categories: Teachers Advice

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