Oxford Reading Spree

A conference/festival/celebration of reading in schools

Buy Tickets for Oxford Reading Spree

Tickets for Oxford Reading Spree are now available through Eventbrite

Tickets cost just under a tenner and include a tasty lunch made by the amazing Sandra Ruge of Donnington Doorstep. Those who know Sandra will regard that as being worth the ticket price by itself.

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Getting to Oxford Reading Spree

The Reading Spree is happening at Larkrise Primary School in East Oxford. There is plenty of parking on the school playground.

Arriving by Car

The school postcode is OX4 4AN. Do not try to come through town, whatever direction you come from use the ring road and approach Larkrise on the A4158.

Coming round the ring road in a clockwise direction from the A34 you will cross over the river Thames and pass the Sainsbury’s Superstore. At the next roundabout take the first exit towards the town centre. You will pass a row of shops and down a steep hill (look out for the speed camera) and then up again. At the next set of lights turn right onto Boundary Brook Road. The school is along on the right.

Coming round the ring road in an anti-clockwise direction you will pass the mini-factory, at the next roundabout take the third exit towards the town centre. You will pass a row of shops and down a steep hill (look out for the speed camera) and then up again. At the next set of lights turn right onto Boundary Brook Road. The school is along on the right.

Arriving by Train And Bus

Exit the station through the main entrance and look for the Number 3 bus. The Number 3 leaves approximately every ten minutes. Tell the driver you are going to the co-op on Iffley Road and ask them to give you a shout. Settle in as you’ll go right through the city centre, over the River Cherwell and up the Iffley Road. Getting off at the co-op, continue along Iffley Road for a hundred metres or so then turn left onto Boundary Brook Road, Larkrise is along on the right.

Reading Gladiators

Reading Gladiators



Just Imagine’s Reading Gladiators (TM) is a school-based programme designed to provide a challenging reading experience that motivates children to read for pleasure. Gladiators are encouraged to read widely and to make adventurous reading choices. They collaborate with team mates and undertake individual challenges.

Participating schools are clustered in informal regions and come together at the end of the year to take part in a fearsome challenge day, pitting their wits against opposing teams in a contest of knowledge, performance and creativity.

Reading Gladiators provides a value for money reading programme by ensuring school book selections are renewed on an annual basis. We have feedback from schools that it has increased both teacher and pupil knowledge about books and authors beyond the obvious and popular choices.

Flexibility is a key feature of the two programmes that are running from September 2016. Some schools prefer to integrate Reading Gladiators into guided reading sessions, others prefer to run the programme as an after-school or lunchtime club. The groups are often run by class teachers but we also have examples of headteachers, teaching assistants and parents running the groups. What is important is that the leader is passionate about reading and that they can lead discussion rather than asking a set of pre-determined questions. We provide guidance on some effective ways of doing this. We can also provide guidance as to what has worked well for the schools taking part this year.

Peters Books

Once upon a time, a short walk from platform 9¾ at Birmingham New Street, there existed a secret place called Peters, full of the best books in the land…

Every fairytale prince and princess has the ability to become a bookworm, and Peters are passionate about harnessing this ability by helping you choose the perfect books for your readers. Peters is the UK’s leading specialist children’s book and furniture supplier to nurseries, schools, academies and public libraries, and for over 80 years we have been helping teachers and librarians offer children access to the right books and inspiring spaces in which to enjoy reading. You can buy in person in our showroom, over the phone with our friendly team on 0121 666 6646, or online via

Looking to buy in person? Step into the magical showroom at Peters and you’ll be transported to Wonderland, just like Alice! There are shelves upon shelves of over 40,000 individual fiction and non-fiction titles, from board books all the way up to teen and young adult fiction, ready for you to browse and buy. Relax in between book buying in our book-themed reading café, where you can enjoy tea and biscuits and lunch to help you decide which title to look for next. While you’re visiting our literary haven, you can also browse our furniture selection for libraries, classrooms and reception areas. Our on-site designers can also visit you in school and create a free, no-obligation CAD design to help you create the ideal reading area at your school. You can also buy furniture online via

Prefer to browse for new books online? Access exclusive discounts and special offers on our website, Here, you’ll find levelling information, keywords and invaluable reviews from our expert children’s librarians, who read and review every book that comes through our doors! With their encyclopaedic knowledge of children’s books, why not try our bespoke selections service, where our librarians and curriculum specialists can pick the perfect books for your readers depending on your budget and requirements, from Allan Ahlberg to Benjamin Zephaniah.

Visit to start your story. May your bookworms read happily ever after!

Rising Stars ‘Reading Planet’

We’re excited to announce that our headline sponsor for ‘Oxford Reading Spree’ is Rising Stars’ Reading Planet.

Reading Planet is a research based reading scheme designed to go from pre-reading skills (lilac banded) through fully decodable texts to to a range of exciting fiction, non-fiction poetry and plays for confident young readers.

All four stages of the programme are based in research from Coventry University showing that speech rhythm sensitivity is fundamental to children’s reading development. But what is it? Why is it so important?

Speech rhythm sensitivity is the ability to perceive aspects of spoken English, such as stress, intonation and timing, as well as the natural rhythm of language. Children who struggle with reading frequently lack this sensitivity, but research has shown it can be trained and enhanced with simple activities so that all children can become confident readers.

Prof. Clare Wood, Prof of Psychology in Education at Coventry University says;
“ We know that children’s sensitivity to rhythm, and to the rhythm of speech, is linked to their reading ability. What we are now seeing is evidence that not only is sensitivity to speech rhythm trainable in young children, but that such training benefits their early progress with word reading.”

Emily Harrison, PhD researcher Coventry University

“The results were fantastic – in both the beginning readers, and the older struggling readers, the speech rhythm intervention resulted in significantly greater gains in reading […] This means that speech rhythm training is effective both at the beginning of reading tuition and once children have already received some formal training.” You can read more about Emily’s research here.

You can hear more about their research from Care and Emily in this short video.

What’s a Spree?

Ed Finch writes;

On October 1st last year something amazing happened at a little primary school just outside Liverpool. Teachers from across the North of England and beyond came together to share, discuss and celebrate all that’s best in reading in schools. The school was The District Primary in Merseyside and the event was ReadingRocks16

The tweets from that event flooded my timeline – pictures, videos, snappy quotes from inspiring speakers. From where I was sitting (in Wolverhampton as it happens) it looked like someone, somewhere was having exactly the sort of party that I’d like to be at – and I was missing it!

If you haven’t heard about Reading Rocks you should take a look at this feature from Educate magasine to get a feeling for the brilliant event that Mrs Wright and her team put on.

I remember tweeting on that day that someone should organise a similar event a little further south so I could get to it. A little later I realised that if you really want something to happen the best thing you can do is make it happen yourself. So here we are.

What I hope to see at Larkrise on April 1st is a coming together of people who share a passion for children’s reading. There’ll be teachers there, of course, but there’ll also be school librarians, head teachers, academics, consultatants, student teachers and parents (sorry if I missed you out – I want you there too) all there to celebrate, to question and to learn. There will be lots of laughter, lots of fun as people move around the school to try the book activities our pupils have set for them, to take pictures in the selfie booths, to check out what’s on offer in the market place and at the bookshop. There’ll be lots of listening, lots of talking. There might be some singing. People will leave energised and inspired. Hopefully they will leave having met some of their social media contacts in real life and turned their twitter buddies into real friends. Hopefully they will have made some brand new contacts. It’s not a conference – it’s a Spree!

I am humbled and amazed at the number and quality of people who have offered to give their time to come to the Reading Spree. The great Mary Roche is flying in from Ireland to share her expertise in developing children’s critical thinking through sharing texts, Darren Chetty will be helping us honk through the importance of representation in the books children read, Mat Tobin from Oxford Brooks University will be helping us decode picturebooks, Simon Smith (he’s from Whitby) will be sharing his irrepressible passion for children’s literature. There’s more but I’ll leave the whole list and the blogs for another page.

As well as the terrific people who have offered to come and present I’ve also been moved by the colleagues who have offered to help out with the event. Programming, organising and running the day will be a real team effort and it says something for the positivity of the teaching profession that, despite enormous pressures on teachers and the ridiculous workload they carry, they still want to give their time and energy to make something like this happen.

Where did the name come from? Well you can ask Martin Galway about that but there is a long connection between Larkrise Primary School and the Oxford Reading Tree which makes it particularly apposite. Maybe Floppy himself will come along to our Reading Spree – now that would make it a real celebration.


We have an extraordinarily strong line up of speakers and workshop leaders for our Reading Spree. More may be added but so far the list includes;

Darren Chetty (@rapclassroom)

Darren is a teacher and academic. He contributed a thought provoking chapter to the highly successful ‘The Good Immigrant’. He has lots to say on the subject of representation of black and minority ethnicity characters in fiction. You can read his blog here.

Martin Galway (@GalwayMr)

Martin is a well known book lover and a literacy advisor. He is held in high regard for his attention to detail and his expertise in teaching grammar through reading of high quality texts. We’re letting him off the leash to speak on something close to his heart. There may be tears. Martin contributes to the Herts for Learning English blogs and newsletters . You can see some of his work here.

Mini Grey

Mini is the author and illustrator of a whole host of brilliant, quirky, thought provoking picturebooks including the all time classic ‘Traction Man’. Mini’s books often question or gently poke fun at stereotypes and preconceptions. You can find out more about Mini and her books here.

Sam Keeley

Sam has worked in education for 15 years.  After working in Hertfordshire teaching all ages from Key Stage One to Three and becoming a Leading Literacy Teacher she moved to Essex and worked as a literacy consultant for the Local Authority before joining the team at Just Imagine. Sam says, ‘I have never grown out of loving children’s books and am lucky to be able to share this with the teachers and children I work with and with my own two young children. The best part of my job is finding ways to make brilliant books come to life in the classroom.’

Andrew Moffat (@moffat_andrew)

Andrew teaches in Birmingham. He pioneered a ‘No Outsiders’ policy at his school ensuring that LGBT people were fully represented and included in the school. He is the author of ‘No Outsiders in Our School: Teaching the Equality Act in Primary Schools’. The Guardian ran an interesting article of Andrew’s work which you can read here.

Mary Myatt (@MaryMyatt)

Mary Myatt advises, writes and trains. She supports schools to think imaginatively about learners’ progress. She has written ‘High Challenge, Low Threat: How the Best Leaders Find the Balance’ and ‘Hopeful Schools: building humane communities’. She’ll be thinking about why pupils, and teachers, should be reading above their pay grade.

Mary’s blog is aways worth a read.

Mary Roche (@marygtroche)

Mary is a leading thinker in literacy education with a special interest in picturebooks and the author of ‘Developing Children’s Critical Thinking through Picturebooks’. Mary works with all age groups and also works with Post-Primary teachers and teachers of children with special needs as well as working with third level education students. This video is a terrific introduction to her thinking and her methods.

Chris Smith (@chrissts1)

Chris is an Oxford based storyteller, musician, trainer and founding member of Storytelling Schools. Chris has worked in schools, universities, museums and prisons using the power of story to improve education and to change lives. There’s lots more to find out at

Simon Smith (@smithsmn)

Simon spent some years as a literacy consultant but now works as a Head Teacher in Whitby. He has an infectious passion for children’s literature which runs from picturebooks to Young Adult Literature. Simon’s blog is thoughtful, entertaining and frequently moving.

Nick Swarbrick (@nickswarb)

Nick leads the teams for undergraduate degrees at the School of Education at Oxford Brooke’s University. He teaches on the undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Studies. He also teaches on the Primary PGCE with particular interest in Early Years pedagogy and the outdoors. Nick has a wide range of interests including picturebooks, Alan Garner and Werewolves. Nick blogs at

Mat Tobin (@Mat_at_Brookes)

Mat teaches at Oxford Brooke’s University. He is involved in ITT as well the Early Childhood Studies programme and the PGcert/MA programme. Mat has a dizzying array of research interests including landscape in the work of Alan Garner, depictions of fatherhood in picturebooks, vernacular architecture as a window into representation in children literature and Reading for Pleasure. Mat’s blog is a treasure trove of thoughts, reviews and interviews around children’s literature.

Piers Torday (@PiersTorday)

Piers is the author of the  ‘Last Wild’ trilogy and ‘There May be A Castle’, he also completed his late father’s novel ‘The Death of an Owl’ and has a story in the terrific collection ‘Winter Magic’. Piers website is interesting and includes this feature on his interest in Roald Dahl from BBC’s Countryfile.

Rhoda Wilson (@TemplarWilson)

Rhoda is a teacher and a school leader with a passion for books, books and more books. Rhoda has interesting insights into theory and practice of teaching literacy in general and reading in particular. She has helped many teachers refine their thinking and practice particularly in reference to guided reading. Her blog is always provocative.

Blog at

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