A few thoughts on the arrival of the Carnegie shortlist…
It’s always an exciting moment when the boxes arrive at the Library counter – naturally there’s nothing nicer than unpacking large quantities of beautiful books but with this particular delivery there is always an added frisson of excitement. Students have a nose for new books I’ve discovered, so I find myself quickly surrounded with several hands dipping in and out the box in shared excitement. There’s a consensus that the books look good and several pleased exclamations of ‘ooh, I’ve already read that’. I’m especially delighted because this means that my recommendations at the issue desk have carried some weight – I’ve been leading a concerted campaign in recent weeks to make everyone read One by Sarah Crossan as well as a more sustained general awareness programme on the genius of Marcus Sedgwick, Frances Hardinge and Jenny Valentine (everyone is already aware of my thing for Patrick Ness!).
My shadowing kicks off in earnest with an opportune visit from an English teacher in need of a purposeful lesson for a depleted Year 9 English class and we seize upon the idea of letting them have a look at the shortlist. It ticks lots of boxes for promotion for me (huzzah – a captive audience!), it ties in nicely with the work the class are already doing on writing styles and opening paragraphs and it’s not too onerous for the students. Even the self-proclaimed ‘reluctant readers’ settle down and read for 10 minutes and then we have a discussion about the titles (using a ‘bin, borrow or buy’ framework) to suss out which we think look promising. It’s an opportunity to explain what on earth ‘shadowing’ means as well as outlining the idea and ethos of the award scheme in general (and plugging a few winners and shortlisted titles from previous years along the way). The Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan’s One are looking pretty popular by the end of the session and I leave feeling pretty enthused. Talking about books is good!
There is of course the inevitable rush to catalogue and process the books ready to get them out on loan as soon as possible – I’ve already got students turning up at break time asking if they can loan the books. The issue desk is a flurry of barcodes and sticky labels but imagine my delight when I get one or two students from that Year 9 English class turning up asking if they can carry on reading the book they sampled during the class.
It’s these moments that make the Carnegie such a success – it’s having those students (who I would not normally have seen stood at my issue desk) asking for books. It’s the snatched conversations on the corridors with staff and students as they just have to share how they’re getting on with their books. It’s the breathless enthusiasm as a book is returned the very next day with the words ‘I couldn’t put it down’. Some of my most satisfying moments as a Librarian have come from the shadowing schemes – in knowing that these outstanding books have provided the opportunity to put into action that magic formula of putting the right book into the right hands at the right moment.
Don’t get me wrong, the shadowing scheme in our school isn’t all singing all dancing, I’m not talking about vast numbers of students and I’m never going to get every child shadowing, or even every child who’s joined our group reading all eight of the books, but what it is is an opportunity, SUCH an opportunity. It’s a quiet revolution – bucking the trend that ‘teens don’t read’. It’s a dialogue with students about what they read, how they read and how they perceive themselves as readers that simply doesn’t happen every day.
It doesn’t matter if they don’t finish the books – in our school it’s more about opening the door to new authors, new kinds of books as well as presenting opportunities to read and a time in which to discuss them. It’s that chance to think (and often read) outside the box, to indulge our imaginations. It’s about being part of a reading community and, rather importantly, it’s aspirational; it’s about wanting to read good books long after the winner has been announced at the award ceremony.