The Loneliness of the Long-distance Reader

Matt Imrie is the librarian at Farringtons School, Chislehurst and the YLG London judge.

Matt Imrie

October:  “Oh you have started reading for the CKG Awards?”

November: “Wow you have a lot of books to get through –

don’t you think you should read some more?”

December: “What? Still reading I thought you would have finished by now?”

January: “Our friends are asking why you don’t want to hang out any more!”

February: “Haven’t you already read that one?”         

March: “You hate me don’t you?”

April: “I swear you have already read those!”

May: “Look at me! How many times will you read the same books?”

June: “Hey you look different, I didn’t recognize you without a book stuck in your face!”


Much like marathon running, reading for the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is a solitary pursuit that can try the patience of even the most understanding of significant other.  Trust me, if you have one and are going to be a judge, sit them down and explain to them that life as it has been will be disrupted for quite a while and while there will be bigger than usual piles of books lying around it will not be forever (the last bit may be a lie).

It is very unwise for a new judge to wait until the nominations list is made public to start reading – that is similar to waiting for the day of a big race to actually do any running. While no-one can truly know which books will be nominated it is good to start reading as early as possible so by the time the nominations list is unveiled the judge will have read at least a few of them.  This makes a big difference and may prevent panic reading, which can lead to reader fatigue.

Make no mistake, as awesome as being involved in the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals is (and it is truly amazing) it can be isolating – you will need time to yourself to read the books, compare them against the criteria and read them again. The only people who will understand your feelings and what you are going through are your fellow judges.  Past judges will look at you with a mixture of relief and envy in their eyes; relief that they don’t have to go through what you are experiencing again and envy because once experienced the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals process gets into your blood and the rush never truly leaves.

We run alone, apart from those all too few times when as judges we meet for training, long-listing, short-listing and final judging, when we choose the most outstanding titles from a pool of outstanding books.

At the end we will look back and see that while we read the books alone, we chose them together. If you are a first year judge you will feel a mixture of excitement and trepidation knowing that you have another year to run, to read, to choose and to lead new judges who will be standing in the starting blocks, and you hope that you learnt enough from the second year judges who guided you in your first steps.

But at the end you know everything will be fine, because while you read on your own, as a judge you are never alone!


anatomy of carnegie judges


One thought on “The Loneliness of the Long-distance Reader

  1. “Hey you look different, I didn’t recognize you without a book stuck in your face!” 🙂 Brilliant – and thanks. Without you judges, there’d be no lists and I have loved reading along – we’ve got our shadowing event soon – can’t wait!

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