Guides for exploring children's and YA literature

Screenshot of the Book and Beyond guide

The Book and Beyond and Open the Book guides are tools to help teachers and librarians discuss children’s and YA literature — picture books, graphic novels, non-fiction, junior or YA fiction. Use them to facilitate discussions with students or colleagues.

Read and talk to inspire wonder, curiosity, and love of reading

Children’s and young adult literature, in all of its formats and genres, has the power to excite and motivate students to become lifelong readers. Such readers combine the will to read with the skill of reading.

Teachers, librarians, parents, and other ‘enabling adults’ play a critical role in helping children and young adults become passionate, thoughtful, and reflective readers. One of the ways they can do this is to chat with them about books they are reading, have read, and would like to read.

Our Book and Beyond and Open-the-Book tools provide starting points for these conversations and in the process:

  • deepen and enrich reading experiences
  • captivate and develop student imagination, spark curiosity, and inquiry
  • increase student understanding of the world and the human experience
  • create a personal connection with a book — the story and the physical object
  • engage students with reading and writing.

Use the guides to spark further reading and enjoyment in book clubs, literature circles, and reading groups. Use them in and out of the classroom, in the library, and across curriculum contexts.

The aim is not to ‘kill’ the book by 'analysing the life out of it', but to enthuse and engage your students with reading, ensuring they have not just the skill to read, but the will to read.

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.
— Kate DiCamillo

Book and Beyond Educator and Student Guides

The questions in the educator and student guides are designed as prompts, inviting readers to explore, reflect on, and discuss elements of a book and how they add to understanding and enjoyment. Elements considered include the book's:

  • cover, design, illustrations
  • language
  • genre and format
  • setting
  • theme.

The questions and response activities are not intended as a checklist, but are suggestions — a menu of possible approaches to select from. They can help educators (and their students) start to:

  • talk about reading with others
  • explore the 'story behind the story' of a book, author, or illustrator
  • get to know and appreciate an author's or illustrator’s body of work
  • consider and appreciating different elements of a book
  • offer personalised reading recommendations.

The Book and Beyond: An Educator’s Guide (pdf, 142KB)

The Book and Beyond: A Student’s Guide (pdf, 136KB) — similar to the educator’s guide, but tailored for students' use.

Book and Beyond blank planning guides

The blank planning guides provide spaces for thoughts and questions about a specific book including:

  • its form and content
  • inquiry into the book
  • links to 'The New Zealand Curriculum'.

Educator’s blank guide (pdf, 110KB)

Student’s blank guide (pdf, 94.9KB)

Auckland Writers Festival exemplars

This year, we're again partnering with the Auckland Writers Festival and have prepared some completed guide exemplars. The exemplars are based on books from selected writers who feature in the Festival’s Schools Programme.

The exemplars aim to help librarians and teachers from across the curriculum understand what responses might look like and find ideas for activities.

Exemplars for the 2022 Festival are:

Exemplars from previous Auckland Writers Festivals

Concrete Rose (pdf, 390KB) by Angie Thomas (YA fiction)

Dawn Raid (pdf, 296KB) by Pauline (Vaeluaga) Smith (intermediate fiction)

Heartstopper (pdf, 306KB) by Alice Oseman (YA graphic novel)

How to Bee (pdf, 256KB) by Bren MacDibble (primary/intermediate fiction)

In the Dark Spaces (pdf, 281KB) by Cally Black (YA fiction)

Locked Down (pdf, 312KB) by Jessie O and Toby Morris (primary/intermediate fiction)

Mophead (pdf, 355KB) by Selina Tusitala Marsh (primary, illustrated memoir)

Mophead Tu (pdf, 344KB) by Selina Tusitala Marsh (primary, illustrated memoir)

Piecing Me Together (pdf, 226KB) by Renee Watson (YA fiction)

Shadow and Bone (pdf, 286KB) by Leigh Bardugo (YA fiction)

The Adventures of Tupaia (pdf, 263KB) by Courtney Sina Meredith, illustrated by Matt Tait (junior/intermediate, illustrated non-fiction)

Mr Tiger, Betsy and the Blue Moon (pdf, 214KB) by Sally Gardner (primary fiction)

Vasilisa the Brave (pdf, 254KB) — from 'Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts: Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods' by Craig Phillips (upper primary/intermediate fiction)

Other exemplars

Pony (pdf, 315KB) by R.J. Palacio (primary/intermediate fiction)

Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tools

Our Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tools have a stronger focus on inquiry, with spaces for you to note your thoughts and questions about a specific book, including:

  • its form and content
  • inquiry into the book using 'fertile' questions (junior planning tool only)
  • links to NZ Curriculum NCEA standards (English/other).

Fertile questions

Guide for the Open-the-Book tools

Start getting to know the tools by reading our guide first, which explains how to use the different parts of the tools.

Guide for the Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tools (pdf, 827KB)

The tools

Blank primary/junior secondary Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tool (pdf, 557KB)

Blank senior secondary Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tool (pdf, 686 KB)


Exemplar — junior primary Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tool (pdf, 586KB)

Exemplar — upper primary/junior secondary Open-the-Book Thinking and Planning Tool (pdf, 576KB)

Find out more

The role of literature in the inquiry classroom (pdf, 180KB) — an article by Kath Murdoch that provides sample inquiry strategies, questions, and information about using literature to deepen students’ understanding of the ‘big ideas’ central to their inquiries. She uses the following 3 approaches:

  • literature as an ‘information’ source
  • literature to teach questions and stimulate curiosity
  • teaching literature with an inquiry stance.

Inspiring inquiry through picture books — a post on Kath Murdoch’s blog.

Children's and youth literature — information including strategies to evaluate, use, and promote books to encourage students to read for pleasure.

The Secret Language of Books: Guide to Story Elements — NoveList's guide aims to help librarians, teachers, and readers find the right book, exploring themes, genre, subgenres, pace, tone, character, and illustration.