Welcome to the blog of the Tasmanian branch of the Children's Book Council of Australia!

Friday 5 February 2021

The Snowball Effect

Emma Nuttall shares a powerful classroom reading experience steeped in free choice and reading for pleasure inspired by the works of Morris Gleitzman. This is an inspiring piece that demonstrates how current research on the power of student choice is being played out in a Tasmanian school.

Last year an incredible thing happened. We managed to inspire a class of children to independently read the incredible Once series by Morris Gleitzman, by doing very little. But the very little that we did do was tactical. It was considered. And it was powerful. So, so powerful. And all we did was read.

Once, and the further adventures of Felix, written by Morris Gleitzman.

Each day in our class we read
to the children. We read a class novel that we have carefully chosen. Well not so much chosen, as agonised over for weeks on end. We’ve read more book reviews than we care to admit, and we’ve hounded other teachers, librarians and even our favourite bookshop proprietors (Jo, we are talking about you!) for hot tips. We might read 5 novels a year to each class and with so many to choose from, the pressure is on to get it right! And when we do the impact is often immeasurable, but completely visible. We read the chosen class novel to inspire, but we have consciously chosen to read the class novel simply for reading pleasure. There are no associated reading comprehension activities, no writing your own ending, no doing a new front cover. Just for pleasure.

Morris Gleitzman talks about his favourite characters:
Felix and Zelda from Once.

But the Snowball Effect was different. Not only do we read to the class each day, but we also read with the class. And by this, I mean, when the children are reading independently, so are the teachers. When they read, we read. When I say ‘we’, I mean a class share scenario. We both started reading the series. At first the children were simply interested to see which of us was reading faster, then, slowly but surely, they began to ask us about the book, noting our gasps and genuine displeasure at the end of quiet reading time! When we finished Once (I didn't win if you are wondering!), we started on Then, the next book in the series. It was at that point we noticed that all six copies of the book had disappeared off the shelves. By the time we started on Now (you guessed it, the third book in the series) there was a queue for the books, and everyone knew the order! 

By this point, it was getting serious, children were turning up at school with shiny new copies and proudly showing off their birthday box sets. Grandmothers were coerced into buying copies of the next book as a ‘special treat’ and we had exhausted the State and school library’s collections! 

Children who were more interested in reading mountain bike magazines (not that there is anything wrong with mountain bike magazines) were now fighting for their turn of the next book in the series. The most beautiful part was that everyone was very careful not to ruin the plot.... The conversation instead went: “Which book are you up to? And what’s happening?” The response was instead met with a knowing smile.

Obviously, we are now seeking recommendations for the next Once Snowball Effect!

Acknowledgement to Megan Tubb for starting the snowball rolling and happy binge reading everyone!

Emma Nuttall

Teacher, reader and passionate advocate for children’s literature.

Editor’s note: Watch out for the release of the final book in the series about Felix: Always. Due for release in the middle of the year. If you have a suggested series to kick off a similar snowball effect please add a comment here or to the FB post.


  1. Getting kids hooked on a series is a great way to encourage reading for pleasure. Jessica Townsend's Nevermoor series starring Morrigan Crow might be worth investigating.

  2. This is a wonderful post, and it confirms something I have believed for a while - that if we want children to value something, we need to show them that we value it enough to do it ourselves. Let them see us doing it. It's like writing workshops - Whenever possible I try to write WITH the kids, so it becomes a group effort rather than something I impose on them.

    1. Agree Lian, and your trilogies would also provide impetus for a snowball effect. The Rouges, The Keepers and the The Hidden series are all compelling reading for this age group.

    2. I'd also suggest A Clue for Clara, which is probably more accessible for a lot of kids than my trilogies. Plus it's funny, which always helps, especially if people in different parts of the classroom are chuckling, and others want to know why!