World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 1

Here in Berkhamsted we celebrated World Book Day yesterday, Thursday 1st March, by participating in DEAR (Drop Everything And Read).  We asked our teaching colleagues to share a favourite or current book with their classes, read an extract perhaps, and talk with students about why they are passionate about reading and what it means to them.  We also asked non-teaching staff to share with us what they like to read and, similarly, to tell us why they enjoy it as a pastime.  We have had some lovely responses so far and I’m hoping that more will get in touch.  Please read what we’ve written and let us know what you think…

Let’s begin with Mrs Ferguson, Head of Art :

“I spoke to Year 11 boys, Year 13 artists and Year 10 boys about Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I explained where my own love of reading sprang from – influenced by my mother (an avid reader) and a wonderful A-level English course, leading onto an English degree (I think some were quite surprised by this last fact!). I went on to talk about how I quite often discover new writers through their short stories and then go on to reading novels by the same writer, although with Marquez this was the other way round; the first book I read by him was Love in the Time of Cholera. I gave them a bit of biographical context and then the extract that I read out was from The Third Resignation – an early piece very much in the magical realist style and describing the first-hand experiences of a boy who is a living corpse kept by his family in a coffin. Judging from their faces, all the pupils I read this out to were suitably transfixed by what is a magnificently sensual evocation of a waking nightmare!”

Next we talked with Mrs Bailey, PA to the Head of Girls and Mrs Koulouris, one of our librarians:

“Just finished Me Before You Jojo Moyes! Fantastic book…  Heart-wrenching, believable story line.  If you don’t cry over this you haven’t got a heart”.  Mrs Koulouris says that they didn’t cry over the same parts of the story but nonetheless both equally enjoyed it.  She has just started Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers which is another lovely story.

Thirdly, Mr Binnie, a Chemistry teacher, contacted us saying:

“I read my Year 7 science class a small section of Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design. The passage included reference to multi universes existing which they found fascinating.  They had loads of questions and asked about aliens, evolution and all sorts of stuff. I had an exciting practical prepared for them which they always enjoy so I asked them after 20 minutes of discussion whether they wanted to do the practical. About 75% wanted to continue with the discussion so we did and there were about 5 hands up at all times in the lesson and we talked about all aspects of science.

We did this for the whole hour lesson and they really enjoyed it and I did too.”

I find it so refreshing that teachers and staff from all areas have been in touch to talk about the pleasure gained from reading, whether it be fiction or non-fiction; books, newspapers or magazines, and the fact that staff and pupils alike borrow many books from here, is extremely satisfying!

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World Book Day 2012

World Book Day 2012.

Here’s a short film that we’ve put together with photographs of pupils and members of staff reading to celebrate World Book Day 2012 using Animoto.  We hope that you enjoy it and recommend that you turn off the music when playing!

Stop What You’re Doing And Read This!

A collection of ten essays, this little book is a fabulous read for those of us who do not merely enjoy reading for our own pleasure but are also fascinated by how it affects us.  The essays explore what reading means to their authors and people they know and come into contact with. The authors also discuss what happens to our brains as we process the contents of our reading.  Writers such as Zadie Smith, Mark Haddon and Jeanette Winterson talk about how reading has had a life-changing impact on them personally, affecting how they view the world and the courses their own lives have taken as a result.  Zadie Smith begins the book by talking about how the influence libraries have had on her reading journey and her subsequent writing career.  Jeanette Winterson tells of how a book on mountaineering takes her outside of her world and her experiences of it.  Blake Morrison expresses twelve thoughts he has about reading, all of which resonate with me.  I love Carmen Callil‘s comment, reflecting on the importance of the physical book: “Books are like gardens, a Kindle or an iPad like a supermarket – it makes life easier, but one doesn’t want to loiter in it.  You can fiddle with books.  Like gardens, they can be wonderful to look at…” Tim Parks shares his ideas about mindful reading and Michael Rosen reflects on his memories of his father reading Great Expectations to him as a child and how he connected people he knew with the characters of that great book.  From Jane Davis, founder of The Reader Organisation, we hear of the influence of classic novels and poetry on people attending Get into Reading groups from varied and different backgrounds, and how attending such groups has made enormous and important differences to their lives such as improving literacy and deepening their understanding of who they are as individuals.  Dr Maryanne Wolf explores the physical impact of reading on the brain and cites Marcel Proust as someone who: “characterised the ‘heart of reading’ as that moment when ‘that which is the end of their [the author’s] wisdom is but the beginning of ours'”.  Nicholas Carr echoes how I feel about reading when he says: “Several studies have shown that reading tends to make us more empathetic, more alert to the inner lives of others.  The reader withdraws in order to connect more deeply.”  Please read this book if you are a passionate reader and tell me your thoughts.

National Libraries Day in the UK: Saturday 4th February 2012

I had meant to write this post last Friday, 27th January, but in fact I was too busy in our school library!  I was busy because I was helping our students with their queries about using the computers effectively, searches for journal articles, book requests and ideas for a book to take home that evening.  In short, proving that we need libraries!

On Saturday 4th February 2012 we will be celebrating the first ever National Libraries Day here in the UK.  The day was established after we had seen the closure of so many public libraries over the past year, and a handful of those due for closure being handed over to be run by the communities fortunate enough to be able to support them through the goodness of volunteers willing to run them and raise extra funds to keep them going.  The purpose of National Libraries Day is to celebrate libraries and all that they represent and do for us as readers.

We all believe we know what libraries do but are you aware that not only do they do the things that one would expect, but also many library authorities offer  housebound residents the chance to borrow books in a range of formats and films on dvd and music on cd as well. They offer many free courses connected with computer literacy, career choices and cv workshops, provide a wealth of extra information about their locality (both for tourists and residents alike). They host many clubs across the age groups for readers in connection with The Reading Agency: starting with involvement in Bookstart for Babies, continuing with Chatterbooks for primary school children and onto reading groups and the exciting Groupthing and Headspace projects for older children and My Voice for older people.  Many library services provide reading group collections with books available to  privately run reading groups as well as hosting their own.

Library services are supported by so many authors who not only use their local libraries but also do readings, booksignings and talks.  Some library services have also provided bibliotherapy groups for their readers based on the model ‘Get into Reading’, established by The Reader Organisation, who have categorical evidence suggesting that involvement in one of their groups has improved adult literacy for  members of the community from differing social backgrounds as well as offered support for those who are lonely, elderly and sick.  Bibliotherapy has also been shown to assist school age children in these areas where other methods of support haven’t helped them, the library service takes this opportunity into the community in schools and community centres.

To find out more, please click here for redirection to the National Libraries Day website, and I hope that you become involved and enjoy the day!