Friday Blog May 10 – what can our young readers teach us?

This week’s guest blogger is Alison, librarian at Castlemilk High School and Springburn Academy

In my capacity as a secondary school librarian I have been working with two bookgroups, predominantly first years, and I have come to the realisation that our young people have a lot to offer us in terms of how we engage with books.

The challenge with this age group is to create book groups that are dynamic and engaging, while also promoting literacy.  The format of read a book, come back, review and analyse it, was not a solution that would satisfy the requirements of “dynamic and engaging” for the young people.

I believe that some of the activities we have worked on would be completely at home in an adult book group.  They would also help to encourage participation from so called non-readers, lapsed readers or reluctant readers (dragged along by a friend usually!).  I’d like to explore a few with you.

  •  Diary of A…..WIMPY1-120x176

The Diary of A Wimpy kid series is always in great demand so an activity around this always goes down well with our pre-teens.  Together we worked on brainstorming what qualities a diary format book had.  Cue sticking post-it notes all over the table with adjectives as diverse as “crush”, “war” and “rivalry”.  We then decided to write our own diaries based on books we had read or hobbies we had.  This prompted them to think about different narrative styles and how we could adapt existing books or be creatively free.  My attempt to convince them that my Diary of a Scary Librarian was entirely autobiographical was met with giggles and protest…..

What qualities do we think make a good diary format novel?  Is this a legitimate form to use when attempting to tell a great story?  Or will it always fall short of its potential?  Think Adrian Mole, The Color Purple and The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I’d encourage all bookgroups to see if they can adapt a novel and see how it would differ in diary format.

  •  Reverse film adaptation

The perennial debate of ‘what is better; the book or the film’ features regularly in my discussions with pupils.  Unlike most of my friends, there is no overwhelming majority exclaiming that “the book is ALWAYS better”.  So I gave my young members the chance to explore the situation and pick one of their favourite films.  They then had to write their own story interpretation of it. 

How would we do if faced with the same challenge?  Maybe we should be a little less harsh when we look at the work of screenwriters faced with novels that, in all honesty, are available for our own individual interpretation?

  •  Who Am I?

An excellent ice breaker in my first book group session was the Who Am I, Post-it on your forehead, only yes/no answers allowed game (proper title would be welcome!).  As we worked round the group we introduced ourselves, offered up our foreheads to our neighbour to determine which fictional character we would be and then the real fun began.  This allowed the pupils to explore characters that they knew well, or were completely unfamiliar with.  Rather than focusing on a review of one book we discussed and recommended a selection of books.  This encouraged the pupils to borrow books they had learned about at the end of the session.

Imagine this in an adult book club “Eliza Doolittle – what book is she from?….That sounds good actually, I might go check it out”  Perfect for those looking for new avenues to explore, or reluctant readers who can become involved without the commitment of having to a read a novel before the bookgroup meeting.

Next week we are planning the Book-Bout.  Here, you fight your book’s corner and tell everyone why it is THE best book.  I can’t wait to see how the pupils convey the key aspects of what makes a book great!

Go on….fight for the books you love!


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