Keep Calm and Carry On Reading

p1220942When I was at school reading came under the banner of  a ” good thing” and other than the set texts in English lessons we were left pretty much to our own devices. Fast forward to the second decade of the 21st Century and things have changed in many ways. One of the most striking changes has been the expansion in books produced for children and young adults; the range, number and quality available today for the average young person would have delighted the teenage me. From fantasy stories to dystopian fiction, historical fiction, adventure, crime and thrillers, as well as titles which deal with many of the issues which young people face today, the choice is pretty much endless.


What has also become clearer is how much of a “good thing” reading actually is.



Young people who enjoy reading very much are three times as likely to read above the level expected for their age compared with young people who do not enjoy reading at all (34.9% vs. 10.7%). Similarly, young people who read outside class daily are five times as likely to read above the expected level for their age compared with young people who never read outside class.  The National Literacy Trust


It seems obvious that if you enjoy something you will improve and the more you practice the better you become.


Whilst having a wide choice of material is a positive position to be in, the challenge within a school environment is to encourage progression, both in the type of material the girls read and in terms of complexity of language. At Northampton High School we have our own reading scheme to encourage and support girls in their reading but like many schools we also try and vary the reading opportunities available.


The CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals are the UK’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. Often described by authors and illustrators as ‘the one they want to win’ – they are the gold standard in children’s literature.’






Shadowing the Carnegie Award on an annual basis is one of the ways in which we provide a varied reading diet for our keen readers.  Mrs Halstead (English Teacher), a group of hugely enthusiastic girls and I began meeting on Monday mornings after Easter. The eight book shortlist this year being one of the strongest we have seen and our aim to choose the winner. The girls award marks out of ten for plot, characterisation and style for each book and we then total all marks awarded at the end of the process to discover who are our winner is. Our recent track record is a good one, having chosen “The Bunker Diary” by Kevin Brooks as the winner two years ago and “Buffalo Soldier” by Tanya Landman correctly last year. The skill being in awarding marks objectively regardless of our personal preference, though sometimes our favourite has taken the main prize!


The girls have been impressive in these sessions, last year taking part in a streamed debate with other Girls’ Day School Trust schools. The girls prepared well and their confidence visibly grew as the session went on, defending and supporting their views in an effective manner.


These are some of the comments we have had so far about the shortlisted books this year:


the-lie-treeThe Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge: comments on the plot – “It takes a while to get going but once it started I couldn’t put it down!”



one  One by Sarah Crossan: comments on style – “I don’t think that she should have written it in verse. It made it difficult to read and didn’t add anything to the story. She didn’t create mood very well, I thought it too light and easy in places for the themes”






five-children Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders: comments on characterisation – “Amazing” Comments on the plot – “gentle and composed on such a harsh topic”













There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake: comments on the plot – “The plot in the real world was fine however I felt that it kept being interrupted by the fantasy line which damaged the flow”

Find out more about the shortlisted books at


The award winner will be announced on Monday 20th June so we plenty of reading time still left, but at the moment (late May) Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders is a definite contender!  The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge won the overall Costa Award last year and should be strong competition though, so we will have to wait until the end of June to see if we pick the winner again!

All short listed books are available to borrow from the School Library.


Ms Anne Buxton, Librarian