Just Imagine


Back in Time

The theme Back In Time provides children with a range of texts that explore different periods in history. There is a variety of historic events and periods represented in the selection. For example, Letters From The Lighthouse is set in WW2 and Master Will and The Spanish Spy is set during Shakespeare’s childhood. Some texts are also set across different time periods such as Major Glad and Major Dizzy.

Some features of this selection:

  • Looks at range of time periods – WW2 (Letters from the Lighthouse)
  • Either set in one period or spanning across (Major Glad and Major Dizzy)
  • Fiction and Nonfiction provides opportunities to compare books.

Book introductions

To spark curiosity about the books with the children you could draw on the differences between the different time periods.

  • One way might be to have a ‘Special Delivery’ from a museum which contains artefacts linked to each of the texts.
    • wrap artefacts in brown paper and string and pack them into an old wooden box. This box could be delivered to the class from the school office. This will pique the children’s interest before you introduce the books.
    • Give the children the blurbs from each book to read in groups.
    • Unwrap each item and predict which artefact matches which text and why.
    • Encourage children share with a partner or in groups which text they might like to read. You may need to have waiting lists for popular books!
  • An alternative introduction would be to dig up a time capsule with artefacts inside.
  • Letters could be delivered from the main characters or sharing gruesome facts from each era.

Book talk

Here are some potential prompts for class or group discussion around the theme:

  • Would you rather be a child now or in the time period your book is set? Why
  • What sorts of problems do the characters encounter in the books that you have been reading?
    • Would the character have had that problem if they were living today? Or is the problem specific to the time and place that the story is set?
    •  If it is a problem that might be encountered today do you think it would be approached in a different way?
  • Have you learnt anything new about a period of time from a book that you have been reading?
    • what is the most interesting thing that you have learnt?
  • Do you think this event/period of time that you have been reading about has had any impact on us today? In what way?
  • Do you notice any language that is different to how we speak now?
    • Why do you think language has changed?
  • If the characters in your book time travelled to the present, what do you think they would think or say about our world?
    • What would you most want to ask them?
  • What are the differences between the time period your book is set in and now?
    • What are the similarities?
    • Do you think things are better or worse now? In what ways?
  • How do we know that this time period/event happened?
    • Are there any clues that tell us that the writer researched the period they were writing about?
    • What sources of information might they have used?
  • Do you think it is important to know things about the past?
    • Why? Why not?
  • What lessons can we learn from that historical event/period of time?
    • Do you think people learn from history, or do they just keep making the same mistakes?
  • How would you feel if you time travelled back to that time?
    • What would you most want to experience by travelling back to that time period
  • Find other books to fit this theme in the library, school library, or perhaps from home
    • compare a fiction and a nonfiction book about the same period.
    • which do you prefer?
    • do you learn different things from fiction and nonfiction?

The Reading Journey: Back in Time (24 books)

 The Reading Journey is Just Imagine's programme for supporting independent reading, to develop wider reading and make more productive use of book corners.  The Reading Journey is designed specifically to keep class... Read more

Display ideas

A Basket of Books

Display books from the theme where they can be easily accessed by children for independent reading. If you don’t have space for a bookshelf, a simple basket works well.

Create a Context

Add photographs or artefacts to support the context for the story.

Prompt Questions

Add some prompt questions to your display to pique children’s interest in the books

Library Books

Encourage the children to add books from the library or books from home to supplement the theme.


Make a timeline for your display to show how the books relate to historical periods and to each other.


Rebecca Thomson is a teacher in a primary school in Bristol. She has been involved in the development of the OU  Research Rich Pedagogies: Reading for Pleasure website and is currently completing an MA in Education.