Caroline Fielding is the CKG Judge for YLG London and is the librarian at Charlton Park Academy
I remember discovering, years ago, that the judges for the CKG medals are librarians from the Youth Libraries Group & deciding at that moment that it wouldn’t just be great CPD but that I *needed* to get more involved. But fate did not want to make it easy for me, deciding that the short period of my judging tenure should coincide with the arrival of a small book-eater we named Beatrice. Pre-Bea, reading 200+ books would have been a walk in the park, I used to read all the nominated books anyway, but there were times during my pre-reading (often in the early hours over a breast pump) that I feared I wouldn’t be able to do it.
Thankfully, by the time the nominations were announced she slept reasonably well at night so I only had to worry about ignoring my hubby every evening in order to get a decent wedge of reading in before bed. 6am alarms generally got me a chapter or two before she demanded release from the cot. I’d carry a book with me wherever we went (well, who doesn’t anyway?) in the hopes that she might doze off in the buggy so I could sit on a bench & read, cursing CILIP for timing the heavy reading in winter but thanking my lucky stars it didn’t rain much. We’d surround ourselves with Greenaway titles in the living room & I would point out exceptional pages or ideas to make a note of. She’d potter around the piles of books, picking them up & saying “ooo”, even occasionally sitting with me to read one.
Even with my speed reading this wasn’t enough, so visitors had a toddler thrust at them while I buried my nose in a book, & hubby & Bea went out without me whenever possible so that I could concentrate on properly evaluating the titles against the criteria. I’m also ashamed to say that she developed a small addiction to the iPad while I wrote notes & I have felt like a terrible mother & wife (especially as hubby’s lost 1/4 his annual leave to judging meetings).
Worth it though? Hells yeah! I still can’t quite believe I’m the London Judge; it is the greatest honour & responsibility, a peak in my career at a time when really my career would otherwise be on hold. With the longlists & then shortlists chosen I’m happily getting a bit more sleep & procrastination in, as the date to pick our winners looms & I keep tweaking my notes & re-reading passages. Itching not only to have conversations about these books but also to get on with pre-reading for next year. And even more excitingly, Bea turns 2 & starts preschool next month two mornings a week, giving me nearly 6 extra hours a week reading time!