Swap a book day!

Age range: 10-18 or older!
Suitable after about 2 years of learning English. Can be used with higher levels
Theme: reading habits in the UK and National Literacy Campaign
Lexical area: books and reading matter
Cross curricular link: relevant to all areas of the curriculum

Internet links:

Instructions to language assistants in italics.

Introduce this topic by writing the title of the text on the board. Does anyone know the meaning of swap? Give a concrete example for lower levels (exchanging clothes, records or toys with friends and siblings). Has anyone in the class ever swapped something? Have you ever swapped a book?


You may need to pre-teach the words recommendation, fiction/non-fiction; reference (books) campaign.

You could pre teach the word “recommendation” by asking for reading tips for your stay in their country. Which magazines would they recommend? Is there a local newspaper they can recommend? What about modern authors? Elicit examples of fiction and non fiction, reference books and campaign

Work through the questionnaire orally inviting answers, before they work alone

1. Read these questions from a recent survey on reading habits in the UK.

Complete the survey questions and compare your answers in pairs

1) How many books have you read for pleasure from start to finish in the last 12 months?
50 or more

2) What makes you want to read a book?
recommendations by friends

3) What personal reading have you done in the last seven days?
books (reference)
text messages
personal e-mails
internet pages
personal letters
religious text
E books
can’t read

2. Read the text ‘swap a book’ and find out

a. Who is swapping books ?
b. When are they swapping books ?
c. Why are they swapping books?

Swap a book

A recent survey of reading habits in the UK found that 50% of adults had read at least 5 books or more in the previous 12 months. The results show that young males between 16 and 24 read fewer books than anyone else. The survey, which is part of a national campaign to improve reading levels, found that recommendations encourage people to read.

Recommending good books to friends and work colleagues is a key part of Swap a Book Day on September 6th. Last year London taxi drivers swapped books and wrote book recommendations on postcards at their local café while offices, schools, libraries, hospitals, museums, shopping malls and companies all over the UK held special book swapping events. Creating a book box in the office or classroom is one of the most popular ways to encourage people to swap their favourite reads. People can put a book in the box to share with colleagues or complete a postcard with details of a good book for others to read.

Apart from helping keen readers to find more good books, the campaign hopes to persuade non-readers to pick up a book. So, why not create a book box for your school or workplace?

3. Answer true or false

Young British men read the most books (F)
Telling people about a good book is a waste of time (F)
The book boxes are only found in schools (F)
The campaign is not just for people who enjoy reading (T)

Decorate the classroom wall or put all the postcards in a box, pass around the class and each student chooses one to read. Write an outline on the board for lower levels and give one recommendation of your own as an example before they start.

4. Write a postcard

Recommend a book to your classmates. Write the title, author’s name, publisher and a short description of the book (don’t give too much story detail!). Say in one sentence why you recommend it. Read each others recommendations.

5. Class survey/poll

Find out about reading habits in your class. Design a questionnaire to find out who reads the most books, the most popular type of reading matter, the number of books people have in their bedrooms etc. Draw some graphs and charts to represent your findings.

Prepare this poll by working through some questions with students. Put prompts on the board: How often, How many, What type, Where.../do you...? Give lots of guidance to lower levels and practise replies too. Circulate while they are working, giving prompts and help Don’t let the question planning last more than 10 minutes. They can draw their findings for homework.

6. Desert island reading

If you were going to live on a desert island for a year, what two things would you take to read?
Explain your choices to your group. (Not confined to books, give examples of your choices to get them thinking.)

7. Discussion questions

(Whole class or small groups work through the questions together)

a. Who encouraged you to read? Do you think school teachers, friends or parents are the most important influence on your reading habits?

b. Think of two ways to encourage young people to read more.

c. Some people think that the Internet and television are responsible for a decline in book reading. Is this the case in your country? Do you agree?


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