Book reviews

2014 NATE review of The Literacy Leader’s Handbook

The Literacy Leader’s Toolkit

Graham Tyrer & Patrick Taylor

Bloomsbury 2013, £22.99


The Literacy Leader’s Toolkit is a remarkable book by Graham Tyrer and Patrick Taylor, winners of the TES National Award for Outstanding Literacy Initiative. Their ‘initiative’, based on the aim to try to connect language and thinking, raised their school from good to outstanding – and they have the figures and awards to prove it.

The Toolkit can be used in different ways: as a two-year whole school programme designed to raise literacy standards, or dip into it and use the strategies to help teachers/yourself to ‘lead language learning’ with their/your students. It is absolutely jam packed full of information and ideas for all teachers.


The Literacy Leader’s Toolkit is set out in two parts: ‘Planning your literacy programme’ and ‘Putting your literacy programme into practice’. Within these two parts are 54 practical strategies that offer step by step guidance on what to do to improve literacy in your school. Each strategy is written in a set sequence: beginning, embedding, sustaining, evaluating impact and working with others, and each strategy is structured in the same way to ensure it is easy to put into practice: beginning with literacy outcomes, then getting started, putting it into practice, taking it further, what the staff/students say, and finally, links to other strategies. This makes it a very straightforward toolkit to use. At last, a literacy programme that is doable!


There are reams of high impact practical ideas under headings like ‘How to teach punctuation to the science department’; ‘How to use literacy as a thinking starter’ and ‘how to help parents lead literacy at home.’ There is a multitude of things to use in the classroom like asking MFL student leaders to translate key connectives in English such as ‘however’ into French, thus helping students to write better French and to reinforce the word by highlighting/practising its use in English. Or, as part of improving students’ reading and understanding of examination questions, asking them to put the words in an exam question into a rank order of importance and justifying that order, consequently getting them discussing language, but also focussing on exam question style and thinking like an examiner.


Useful extras are interspersed in the strategies like an example marking policy, presentation policy, letter to parents etc. Also welcome are resources like the thinking phrases for Bloom’s and ‘Text types, exemplars and effects’ explaining what for example, formal/informal, objective/subjective, first/second/third person etc. are. And if this isn’t enough, then a smorgasbord of extras can be found online at the Bloomsbury website.


If you haven’t got your literacy strategy sorted, use this – it is all done for you, ready for you to pick up and roll with it. The Literacy leader’s Toolkit is one of the literacy books you need in school, in your department, in your teachers library. It is excellent, very accessible and full of stuff you can use in the classroom tomorrow. Buy it!


Gill Clayton

Assistant Headteacher, Great Torrington School


‘A must have guide for busy leaders! A great resource which provides at a glance, easy to apply strategies for improving standards of literacy for all learners to engage with.’ —Fiona Froment, Principal, Aylesbury Vale Academy

‘This book has three unusual dimensions which those working on school improvement often overlook; staff development; student involvement; and enlisting parents. It is worth reading for that alone…’ —Sir Tim Brighouse

‘Being a literacy coordinator can feel like the loneliest job in the school, and making whole-school literacy have real classroom impact can be hugely frustrating. That’s why this book is so welcome: it’s positive, practical and hugely uplifting.’ — Geoff Barton, Headteacher, King Edward VI School and author of Don’t Call it Literacy

‘This toolkit is full of practical, feasible steps that help staff across the curriculum reflect on how literacy is their business. It will be invaluable for anyone attempting to achieve that tricky thing: an effective whole-school approach to raising standards of literacy.’ —Julia Strong, former Deputy Director of the National Literacy Trust

5.0 out of 5 stars
 A really useful book full of many practical ideas 13 Aug 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I bought this book having been really impressed with a one day course Graham Tyrer delivered on literacy. This is a really useful book for those who have responsibility for literacy in their school. It is full of practical ideas about how to launch, develop and embed literacy. It includes a useful two year strategic plan as well as methods about how to monitor and evaluate impact. Central to Graham Tyrer’s approach is the involvement of students at various levels. Whether they are involved in displaying items from the ‘litbox’ in a classroom, or taking part in a marking policy consultation as ‘litleaders’, students are seen a a wonderful resource to help raise standards of literacy across the school. The book is written in a straightforward style and you can dip into whatever takes your interest clearly indicated by different headings. I would wholeheartedly recommend ‘The Literacy Leader’s Toolkit.’

Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Very professional and informative. 30 May 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an excellent toolkit. I have implemented many of the activities and I can see instant results from it.

Was this review helpful to you?
 5.0 out of 5 stars A Literacy Leader / Coordinator’s Bible! 24 April 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A must have for all Literacy Leaders or those responsible for closing the gap across the curriculum. A full two year plan and so amazing ideas and suggestions.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s