Jillian Connolly is the Reading and Learning Manager for children and families
in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire.
Well, the shortlist is out there now and I can breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not going to accidently let anything slip…. So far I’ve had a few chats with colleagues, they’ve been telling me what they think of the shortlists, which titles they have loved, how pleased they were to see “such a body” make the shortlist or at times, what a shame “so and so” didn’t feature. One thing that has been evident though, is how passionate people get about the books they love! How much we care about our favourite authors or a piece of work that has really connected with us. Then, of course, there is the flip side. We get equally as passionate about things we have read that we’ve not enjoyed. Those storylines that were unbelievable, those characters who drive us crazy, the endings that weren’t supposed to go that way.
I imagine across the country at the moment such conversations will be starting amongst the shadowing groups. Different voices will be championing or challenging the works on the shortlists. Opinions will be shared and debates will soon be taking place.
So why does it matter? Where does that interest come from? It has been said many times that the books and stories we read and the authors whose world’s we enter into have such an impact on who we are. But why do we do it? What makes us readers?
I attended a meeting this week about how the library service can engage with expectant parents, so it started me thinking about how some of us are readers. Are we born this way or is it a habit that is nurtured? For me, my love of books came from my Mum. From very early on Mum would read stories to me. Story times occurred throughout the day and not just at bedtime. A book soon became the best way to keep me occupied, particularly when she had to take me out on errands and needed to concentrate. A twenty pence Ladybird book was always money well spent! Slightly showing my age there, but for me the familiar quote of “Children are made readers on the laps of their parents” was true.
For others though their love of reading is encouraged by people they meet through their education. A teacher who helped bring a set text to life , a class mate who shared a much loved author or a school librarian with enthusiasm and a good recommendation. Sometimes it’s simply a case of stumbling across the right book at the right time. As I said, I have always been a bookworm but there have been times in my life when I’ve been through a reading drought. Not having the time or the inclination to read and as a result I get out of the habit….Until I come across that one book that clicks with me or that I can’t put down or which stays with me for days and then I’m right back in the habit again. On one such occasion, years ago now, a dry spell came to an end when I was asked to read Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve for a teaching course. The creativity of the concept, the excellent writing and the vivid characters were enough to ignite my passion for reading again. Reeve, of course, is a former Carnegie winner himself and this year’s shortlisted authors are great storytellers, just like him. The titles I am re-reading at the moment all have the potential to be that inspiring read which creates a reader. The book that you can’t wait to recommend to a friend or family member. Stories that stay with us long after we’ve turned the last page.
I hope many of the shadowers have those experiences, I hope the shortlist is a way into reading for some and for others that it keeps that reading momentum going. For me, I’m just thrilled and proud to have been part of this process. It’s a reader’s dream job being a CKG judge and an opportunity made available to me due to my love of books. And on that note I’m going to sign off with two words…..Thanks Mum!