World Book Day 2017 at Berkhamsted

wbd reading teachers board castle

We had a lot of fun last Thursday, 2nd March, when celebrating World Book Day!  In our libraries, we put up a display such as this one showing teachers and librarians reading on one side of each picture and then on the other side, we were holding up the books which are currently grabbing our attention.  The displays attracted many visitors as they passed through, on their way to their study tables and computers!

We also welcomed classes into the libraries where they played two reading games and were asked to complete cards telling us what they like to read, which are their favourite books and what they are reading at the moment (their ‘Writes of Passage’, if you will, which we are still taking cards for).

The first game we played was called ‘Crossed Lines’ and was taken from the National Literacy Trust’s website.  We chose a few first lines from really good novels we found in the libraries and then started off a chain of Chinese whispers, loved by boys and girls alike.  We used Charles Kingsley’s The water babies, Patrick Ness’s A monster calls, David Almond’s A song for Ella Grey and Meg Rosoff’s Picture me gone at the girls’ school which worked really well. The titles we read from at the boys’ school were The curious incident of the dog in the night-time (Mark Haddon); Peter Pan (J M Barrie); Stormbreaker (Anthony Horowitz) and To kill a mockingbird (Harper Lee).  This was a sure-fire way to demonstrate how stories evolve with the telling, and how to listen properly!  We enjoyed watching the children’s faces as they were trying to understand how to pass on a simple sentence.

Our second game was ‘Reading Chairs’, the idea for which, again , was borrowed from the National Literacy Trust’s website.  This time we took the children back to the party games from their younger days and played what, in its previous incarnation, was know as musical chairs!  A librarian or teacher read from the beginning of a book and each time he or she stopped reading, a chair was removed from the library.  Whilst everyone was rather competitive, we did manage to maintain a sense of decorum!  The winners received a creme egg…

A good day was had by all, indeed, we carried on the next day since we’d enjoyed it so much!


World Book Day 2014: celebrations in school (2)

Welcome to part two of our posts about our celebrations for World Book Day 2014.  We took our lead from the World Book Day 2014 website  and decided to create our own ‘Writes of Passage’ noticeboard.  We had a banner made for each of our school libraries and placed them close to, or at the top of, a noticeboard.  We then invited as many people as possible to complete blank postcards with details of books which had meant a lot to them as they were reading them.  We had a terrific response!  Many were colourful and some contained entire illustrations.  Many congratulations and thanks to all who participated!

We were delighted that so many people participated – we received 322 cards and the majority of books shared were shared by only one person, and amongst them, there were only a few adults represented, thus providing an overwhelming impression that our children are reading and reading so diversely!  The children also voted outstandingly in favour of print editions over electronic versions of books.  Hooray!  Our top ten books, (including series) are as follows:

1.     The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins

2.    The Fault in Our Stars John Green

3.     To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee

4.     Harry Potter series J K Rowling

5.     The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas John Boyne

6.     The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time Mark Haddon

7.     The Book Thief Markus Zusak

8.     The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared Jonas Jonasson

9.     The Inheritance Cycle Christopher Paolini

10.   The Perks of Being a Wallflower Stephen Chbosky

Interesting that our top four also rank in the top four on the World Book Day 2014 list!

World Book Day – a conclusion for 2013

I hope that you enjoyed our series of posts for World Book Day when we shared teachers’ favourites with you.  We certainly enjoyed hearing about what everyone is reading at the moment and are very happy to continue with celebrating in this way.  Quite often, it is difficult with our busy schedules and curriculum to squeeze extra moments to pause and think about reading, especially within the secondary school environment, but it’s good to know that there are others within our organisation who share our passion for books.  I read an interesting feature by Erica Wagner, Literary Editor of The Times where she talks about World Book Day celebrations in her son’s school, in last Saturday’s edition (9th March).  She says:

” My son’s in Year 8 now … so – thank heavens – he doesn’t have to dress up any more.  I’m pretty sure we did James Bond one year too (yeah, yeah of course there are the movies, but there were books first), and William Brown another.  This year, I offered to help his teacher in persuading a few authors to come into the school to speak to the kids, as well as offering to come in myself for an afternoon.  Well, easy enough for me to do from my position, you might say, and I wouldn’t be the the one to correct you.  But I like to think that it’s never a bad thing to do what you can, whatever that might be: I am not much good at all, I promise you, when it comes to helping out with sports day, and I know plenty of people who are.  And World Book Day wouldn’t be the huge success it is if it depended on people like me.

It does depend, however, on writers who have a passionate commitment to turning children on to the wonder and delight of books. ‘The Biggest Book Show on Earth’ was broadcast from Queen Elizabeth Hall in London on Thursday, and presenter Tony Robinson said the goal was to reach three quarters of a million children… And it depends, most importantly, on every single parent, every single carer, who is able to reach out to his or her child – or niece or nephew, or friend’s child – with a book.  Of course it’s important that reading is part of the curriculum, and that children study books.  But the best way to study something is to discover, first, that you love it – and that’s what World Book Day is really about.”

What else can I say?

erica wagner Photograph:  Erica Wagner, The Times

world book day yellow


World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 4

Welcome to the latest instalment of our World Book Day series.  Today we are featuring two of our teachers of Modern Foreign Languages.  Miss Ashby wrote to tell me that she had shared a poem by Jorge Luis Borges with her students, named Instantes:


Si pudiera vivir nuevamente mi vida.

En la próxima, trataría de cometer mas errores.

No intentaría ser tan perfecto, me relajaría mas.

Sería mas tonto de lo que he sido,

de hecho tomaría muy pocas cosas con seriedad.

Sería menos higiénico, correría mas riesgos.

Haría mas viajes, contemplaría mas atardeceres,

subiría mas montañas, nadaría mas ríos.

Iría a mas lugares donde nunca he ido,

comería mas helados y menos habas.

Tendría mas problemas reales y menos imaginarios.

Yo fui una de esas personas que vivió sensata y prolíficamente

cada minuto de su vida.

Claro que tuve momentos de alegría, pero si pudiese volver atrás,

trataría de tener solamente buenos momentos.

Por si no lo saben, de eso está hecha la vida, solo de momentos.

No te pierdas el ahora.

Yo era uno de esos que nunca iba a ninguna parte, sin un termómetro,

una bolsa de agua caliente, un paraguas y un paracaídas.

Si pudiese volver a vivir, viajaría mas liviano.

Si pudiera volver a vivir, comenzaría a andar descalzo a principios de la primavera y seguirá así hasta concluir el otoño.

Daría mas vueltas en calesita, contemplaría mas amaneceres y jugaría con niños.

Si tuviera otra vez la vida por delante.

Pero ya ven, tengo 85 años y sé que me estoy muriendo.

Jorge Luís Borges.  For a translation, please click here.

Miss Ashby says: “With Year 9 Spanish we looked at a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentinian Poet. The poem is called ‘Instantes’ and is about an old man who is close to death and he talks about if he were to live his life again what he would do differently. Great for the conditional tense!

Opened up a lovely discussion about the meaning of life.”

Jorge Luís Borges 1951
Jorge Luís Borges 1951 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mrs Moss shared a book about the art of Maurits Cornelis Escher, upon which she reflects:  “I spoke to a couple of my groups about a book on Escher the artist and I showed the pupils some of his amazing paintings on google images, which we then discussed.”  The Life and Works of Escher, commentary by Miranda Fellows.

escher_relativity (Photo credit: williamcromar)

World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 2

Welcome to part 2 of our World Book Day celebrations posts.  Today we are focusing on recommendations from our Economics Department here at Berkhamsted School and not one economics- or business-related title amongst them!

They all look like fascinating books and include three great fiction reads, an autobiography, a history book and an inspirational book helping us to rethink how to be successful…  Take your pick from this list:

1.   Mr Cowie has suggested Vanished kingdoms : the history of half-forgotten Europe by Norman Davies.

This sounds like a truly fascinating book about Europe’s lost realms.  Who knows what happened to the lost Empire of Aragon or the kingdoms of Burgundy?  The author also considers which

current nations could disappear or become a distant memory in the future…  An alternative historical read for you…

2.   In the withaak’s shade by Herman Charles Bosman was Mr Pain’s choice.  This book tells the story of a farmer, Oom Schalk, who goes out to the bushveld to look for his cattle.  He decides to rest beneath the withaak tree and look out from his seated position there for his cattle.  While he is at rest, a leopard approaches, sniffs at him and then lies down and goes to sleep at his side!  When he tries to tell others about his experience later, unsurprisingly he is not believed.  I would like to read this story myself…

3.   Mr Fung shared his book of the moment with his classes and this was Bear Grylls‘s autobiography, Mud, Sweat and Tears.  Grylls tells of his early life when his father taught him to sail and love the outdoor life and how he was later inspired to take up the most strenuous of challenges that a human can put him/herself through.  He describes how an horrific accident which led to his back being broken in three places nearly paralysed him, threatening  the achievement of the most basic of  functions, let alone continuing to pursue adventures and explore the natural world…

4.   Mr Foster’s offering is Catch 22 by Joseph Heller.  A satirical indictment of military madness and stupidity, and the desire of the ordinary man to survive it is how one reviewer on Nielsen Bookdata Online  describes this novel.  Although I haven’t yet read the book myself, I feel that it is one that I must.  Captain Yossarian is a bombardier in the Army Air Forces whose job is to bomb enemy positions in Italy and France, he turns his mission into one of survival.

5.  Mr Medaris has recommended two titles to his students this year.  The first, Every man dies alone by Hans Fallada, is a fictional story based on the true to life experiences of a husband and his wife, who, acting alone, became part of the German Resistance by writing postcards describing the appalling activities of  the Nazi-led German Government during the Second World War.  The story tells how the couple were eventually discovered, denounced, arrested, tried and executed.  This book was one of the first anti-Nazi German novels to be published after the end of the war, the author dying not long after its completion, prior to the date of publication.  I feel that this is an important book of the mid-twentieth century, another to add to the ever-growing list of books to read…

Mr Medaris’s second choice is Geoff Colvin‘s text Talent is overrated :  What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else.  This text provides an argument that talent alone is not enough to be really successful, one needs to understand the concept of deliberate practice.  Colvin maintains that if you take this route, with dedicated practice and perseverance which is honed over time, you will be following in the footsteps of world-renowned successful people such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Winston Churchill and Tiger Woods, to name but three.  Read the book to glean so much more!

vanishedkingdoms inthewithaak mudsweatandtears catch22 everyman talentisoverrated

World Book Day : celebrations in school, part 1

Rudyard Kipling in his study, about this year
Rudyard Kipling in his study, about this year (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, for World Book Day, we celebrated in school by following Drop Everything And Read amongst ourselves, as staff, and our students.  We decided to share our favourite books and poems with you in a series of blog posts beginning with Rudyard Kipling‘s poem, If


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Mrs Clancy, the Head of our Girls’ School, says:

“I intend to read it to my two classes today, but I do think it is a really relevant poem to the girls…although you will see I have suggested an alternative last line.”

(Last line…you’ll be a Woman, my daughter.)


wbd red

World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 5

I am still receiving feedback from our lovely members of staff here at Berkhamsted who have shared books, either with each other or with their classes.  My first entry today comes from Mrs Warburton, who says:

“I always have several books on the go but I decided to share Inheritance by Christopher Paolini with my Year 7 and Year 8 as I knew many of them would have read the Eragon series and thought that they would be interested to know that I can enjoy the same things as them – and vice versa.   Having read a small section we chatted a bit about books that were films and vice versa. I left them with the idea that they must not pigeon hole books or themselves as boys/girls old/young etc.”

It is refreshing to remind ourselves that our minds should be open when it comes to reading books which are new to us, and trying different genres that we wouldn’t normally pick up can be very rewarding.

Two other members of staff have sent me reviews of books they’ve shared with others for World Book Day.  Mrs Koulouris has updated me with a review of the book she was reading when I posted my first entry on World Book Day (Celebrations in School, part 1): Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers. She tells me:

“I’m not a fan of stories that bounce from past to present throughout, but this I read in two sessions! From the saddest start, through her blue room sanctuary, I was willing Victoria an happy ending.  The acknowledgements are intriguing though, I will have to read up on the author, to find out about ‘Megan’ ?”  Perhaps this should be a challenge for all readers of the book…

Mr van Noordwyck also shared a recommendation of books he’s read recently:

” Ever since I picked up the first paperback written by the author, Andy McNab, (the title was Bravo Two Zero), the style and entertainment value of his books was something I enjoyed during my leisure time. Apparently there was a film made, but I have not seen it yet.  As it goes with film making, they never really manage to capture the thought and the emotion as successfully as an author that would write in the first person does. It is like the Bourne series – a seriously good film, but not even closely comparable with the nature and the style, the narrative version of the life of a spy.  His latest book, or should I say his last published book that I read, Zero Hour, had an interesting twist and, in reading, somehow you would then think it is all over, but this man seemingly has more lives than a cat.  Andy McNab is no ordinary author, he has seen it, lived it and has much to tell.  The books form a series, but you can just about start reading anywhere.  It is all about a secret operative, Nick Stone, who does covert operations and gets sent on missions where the average soldier would not have the grit to go and come back alive. As with most books in this series, there is always an element of surprise, a twist in the story. From conspiracies to crooked politicians to double agents, betrayal the lot – it is all in there. Certainly a good read.  [We have several of Andy McNab’s books in the library: SJM]

His very latest book, entitled War Torn, is not a pleasant read to those who think that joining the forces is a good thrill. This book is set in Afghanistan where the frontline soldiers have to fight another enemy in the form of stress and strain and the anxieties they face in modern warfare. There is much trauma and the way in it affects the families and relatives casts another perspective on life as a soldier.

Another author that I rate very high is Jeffrey Archer.  The last book I read authored by him was The Eleventh Commandment.  It is another spy type conspiracy book written about a CIA operative, Connor Fitzgerald. He is a professional, best of the best.  This man is the holder of the Medal of Honor. In the book he is portrayed as this devoted family man. He has served his country well and is about to retire when the request came.  Fitzgerald comes face to face with an enemy who, for the first time, even he cannot handle–his own boss, Helen Dexter, Director of the CIA. ‘Thou Shalt Not Be Caught.’ (Hence the Eleventh Commandment.)  But the CIA boss, Dexter’ s stranglehold on the agency, is threatened by a power greater than her own, and her only hope is to destroy Fitzgerald.  Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a new threat to national security is emerging in the form of a ruthless hard-line Russian president who is determined to force a military confrontation between the two superpowers.  It then is up to the intrepid Fitzgerald to pull off his most daring mission yet–save the world, and hopefully his own life.  I could not put the book down and felt frustrated not being able to have enough time to finish, it is worse than playing Call of Duty.”

I should like to extend many thanks to the contributors to this entry.  By extending their interest in reading to others, it they have shared their enjoyment of the written word.  Pupils have been encouraged by members of staff from all subject backgrounds to seek out a book choice which will interest them, whether it be fiction or non-fiction.  How fantastic is that?!

World Book Day 2012: Celebrations in School, part 4

This is our last post today covering our World Book Day celebrations.  Our final contributors have informed us of more fascinating books which they have read.  I have learned a lot, in reading our submissions, about books that have now joined many others on my to-read list…

We start with Mr Pett’s choice:

” I discussed my book The Etymologicon, [by Mark Forsyth] which bemused my groups, I think. A worthwhile activity, I think.”  This sounds extremely interesting. As I delved a little deeper, I discovered that the book originates from Mark Forsyth’s Inky Fool blog on the strange connections between words.  Must check this out further…

Continuing with the Classical Civilisation Department, Miss Bradley told me:

“I have taught Years 11, 9, 10 and 8 today and we spent at least 20 minutes talking about books. The girls shared their favourite title or a book that was special to them and why. I explained why I love [Tolkien’s] The Lord of the Rings. I read aloud to them an extract from The Return of the King and then showed them the equivalent scene from the film – we discussed which we preferred and whether the film was a good representation of the book. We also touched on how heavily influenced J K Rowling’s work is by Lord of the Rings and how the trilogy also has resonances of the historical time period in which it was written, between 1939 – 1947.

I then read aloud an extract from Book 9 of the Odyssey by Homer to some classes to show how words that were written nearly 3000 years ago can still resonate today.”  Wonderful stuff!  I wonder whether the girls preferred the book or the film and if they did think the film was a good representation?  I love the idea that Homer’s ancient words are still relevant, more recommended reading…

Mrs Instone concludes this series with her reflections:

Read my classes a bit from Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome about children having sailing adventures on the Norfolk Broads in the days of innocence when four children aged between 7 and 12 were allowed to camp on an island in the middle of the Broads without direct parental supervision for three days at a time.  They did have to report in to a local farmer to collect provisions and to leave a message for their mother that they were all right!  Oh for those days of innocence and freedom!

To the boys I also read a short extract from the latest Lee Child. All of his books have Jack Reacher , a Major in the American Military police,  as the central character. He gets into all manner of scrapes to right various wrongs in a singularly direct manner.  A good holiday read.”

I would like to thank all members of staff who have been in touch, sending in their experiences, it is a lovely thing to be able to do and to receive such positive comments.  They have shared their passion and it is very much appreciated.  I should also like to thank the children, whose responses have made the exercise worthwhile.

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!