I gave up my rights to become a CKG judge!

Karen Horsfield manages Resources for Learning at Somerset’s Schools’ Library Service. Here, she blogs about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards. 

Karen Horsfield, CKG 2014 Judge

Karen Horsfield, CKG 2014 Judge

I have a poster on the wall in my office – ‘The rights of the reader’ by Daniel Pennac, illustrated by Quentin Blake which has left me wondering how those rights apply to me with my CKG hat on.  For the three months between November and January when I was reading the nominated titles, I think I gave up most of them (alongside my family, friends, cinema, TV, swimming, meals out and life in general)!  

‘The right not to read’.  I can honestly say, hand on heart, that I have read every last word of each nominated title at least once.  This means that the second and third reader’s rights, ‘the right to skip’ and ‘the right not to finish a book’, went straight out of the window too!  No skipping pages and no unfinished endings.

The right to read anything is something else that can’t apply to a CKG judge whilst working their way through the nominated titles.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  I will admit to some sneaky reading of a couple of magazines and Christmas letters from friends but generally was unable to choose what I wanted to read.  It didn’t stop me compiling a wish list which also includes DVDs of the films I missed out on as well!

‘The right to mistake a book for real life’ is a failing of mine.  I do this all the time, the characters become my friends and united we combine to vanquish villains and thwart antiheroes even though I have absolutely no control over the outcome of the plot.  There are times when having finished a book, I am unable to pick up another because I cannot say goodbye to the characters whom I have grown to love.  (Not when CKG reading though.)

‘The right to read anywhere’ A CKG judge has to take full advantage of this.  In order to get through all the titles in the allotted I time read anywhere and everywhere attracting annoying comments like, “Get your nose out of that book” (mainly from my family).  I am sure this phrase will be engraved on my book shaped headstone!   I read in bed, over meals, on buses, in breaks, while waiting for meetings to start, in the queue for the checkout, while waiting for my daughter, in the ‘little room’, in the bath, while cooking dinner.  You name it!

I would have liked to have exercised my right ‘to dip in’ as a way of selecting the order in which the nominated titles were to be read.  However, I knew I would read all my favourite authors first.  The books were stacked in the spare room and I was most strict about not cherry picking those I was desperate to read, making myself pick from the top of the pile.  The only concession was that I allowed myself to select half a dozen slimmer volumes to read during Christmas week.

‘The right to read out loud’?  No chance!  I can read a million times faster in my head and speed is of the essence for a CKG judge.

‘The right to be quiet’.  I prefer to snuggle up quietly in a nest on my sofa.  However, I found I developed an ability to read in the midst of chaos and confusion and the hustle and bustle of life simply to ensure I got through the titles.

I am pleased to say that since having completed the CKG list of nominated titles life has got back to normal.  I am not going to read a book for book group simply because I just don’t fancy it.  I skip articles in the paper and I may not finish the book currently in my bag because life is too short to read something I am not enjoying.  I am going to enjoy reading all the CKG shortlisted titles again and particularly relish the one where I was so scared I felt as if I was one of the characters.  I’m going to continue to read anywhere and everywhere and dip into poetry all of which was written to read aloud.

However, a word of warning from Daniel Pennac.  ‘Don’t make fun of people who don’t read – or they never will’.  But how do I deal with people who make fun of me because I do read?

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I’m not sure that I have ever read so many books in my life

Hannah ThomsonHannah Thomson is a Learning Resource Centre Manager at Foxford School and Community Arts College. She blogs here about her role as a judge for the 2014 Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Children’s Book Awards.

What a relief to now be able to talk about the long listed books, I thought that I might actually pop with excitement! This is my second year as a judge and what an experience it has been! I’m not sure that I have ever read so many books in my life… I’m always with my head in a book, but the reading list was staggeringly long and, hand on heart, I read every single one before we descended into our judging huddle to make our final cuts.

What I have treasured most from my experience so far is the opportunity to work with some local primary schools, forging links between them and the secondary school that I work for. Watching the children work with some of the Greenaway books to create wall displays, poetry and pictures, seeing their excitement and the way that stories and pictures make such an impact on them – they really do feed their imaginations!

It’s a privilege to work with such a wide range of young people, and incredibly rewarding to hear about (and see) the positive reading experiences that are taking place as a result of the Carnegie and Greenaway awards. Really fun, creative reading experiences!

Words and pictures have always coloured my world and I share this with students every day, but I also try to encourage them to be interesting and exciting individuals. When I think of all the fantastic characters and stories that they’ll meet and absorb through the shadowing process – both from reading the books and meeting each other, I can’t help but be enthusiastic.

I love my job and feel incredibly fortunate to be involved.

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