The summer holidays can be the perfect time for many readers to commit to a reading challenge as we often have more opportunity to read. This may be on a long car journey, as we relax by the pool or shelter in the tent as we pass the time during a rain shower! I thought I would share a couple of challenges with you as it is so important to keep up the reading habit during the summer weeks. I have also included some recommended reads for our students making the move from Teen Fiction.
The Summer Reading Challenge will take place this year, via public libraries and online. Please check the opening arrangements with your local library before you visit. The Challenge is organised by the Reading Agency and this year they have teamed up with the World Wide Fund for Nature. The natural world and the environment will be championed as part of the Challenge. In previous years, I know that some of our Year 7 and Year 8 students have enjoyed participating in the Challenge with younger siblings and enjoyed shared reading together. More information about the Challenge can be found by clicking on the link to the official website below:
Hazelwick Reading Bingo Challenge
Recently I came across the School Library Association bingo reading challenge as this gave me the idea to create my own for Hazelwick students and their family members to try during the summer holidays. The idea behind the bingo card format is that it is less daunting to a reluctant reader than a long reading list and a bit of family competition can be a great way to encourage wider reading! I have included my template with the reading challenges I will be setting my family but please feel free to edit it. Rewards, as opposed to prizes, seem to be effective with my goddaughters and the rewards will include the control of the TV remote for an hour, selecting the film to watch on movie night and not having to empty the dishwasher! I am sure you can be more creative with your own rewards. I hope you enjoy playing!
Award small rewards/prizes for the player who completes:
- the first line
- the four corners
- a full house or the player that gets closest to the full house at the end of the challenge period.
Moving On Challenge
During the holidays, many students will be taking their first steps in ‘moving on’ from the Junior/Teen Fiction section of the library into books for older teens and Adult Fiction titles. I thought I would share some of my recommendations as I know some parents/carers express concerns about the content of books aimed at older teenagers. This list could also form a reading challenge, how many can you read by the end of the holidays, the October half term or by Christmas?
- Book 1 - Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This is my Adult Fiction recommendation for fans of the ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Divergent’ series as it is a dystopian novel with a virtual reality gaming theme. Humans have destroyed the planet and the Earth has run out of oil which has resulted in widespread famine, poverty and disease. To escape the harsh realities of life, the central character Wade spends hours in a virtual reality world called OASIS. The founder of OASIS has promised to leave his vast fortune to the player that solves the riddles he has hidden in OASIS. Wade discovers the key to solving the first puzzle and finds himself pitting his wits against thousands of other players. A fast-paced adventure story that keeps you page-turning!
- Book 2 - Autoboyography by Christina Lauren
My recommended read for romance genre fans is the touching love story between two boys from very different American backgrounds. Bisexual teen Tanner Scott must hide his bisexuality when his progressive family move from California to Utah. Tanner meets the Mormon prodigy Sebastian Brother in a writing class and falls in love. The novel’s themes of self-identity, the need for acceptance and the imperfect ending lifts this from being ‘just another romance’. Please note that the story does feature frank discussions about sex but this is not graphic and the main character has sex with two characters throughout the story. There is some frequent strong language and discussions about underage drinking.
- Book 3 - Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott
Fans of the film may enjoy reading this novel as it has a different ending to the film. The interesting question asked by the novelist is can you love someone that you can never touch? This is another love story about two teenagers who fall in love, even though their cystic fibrosis means that they can never touch each other as they would risk infection. Central character Stella is on the lung transplant list and must protect herself from infection so needs to stay six feet apart from everybody. When Stella falls in love with Will, she starts to question what is more important, stopping her heart from breaking or staying safe? I think the novel works on another level when social distancing became the norm for readers. Please note that the title does contain some strong language.
- Book 4 - A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas
This is the first title of the five books that make up the ‘Court of Thorns & Roses’ fantasy series. Feyre is a young huntress who is imprisoned in a magical kingdom for accidently killing a faerie. The story reminds me of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ as Feyre discovers that she has feelings for her guard, whose face is hidden by a bejewelled mask. She must escape her captor to break the ancient curse. There are elements of the ‘Game of Thrones’ series and the supernatural romance element echoes ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ series. I have included the link to the ‘Fantastic Fiction’ page which lists the full series details.
- Book 5 - Beloved by Toni Morrison
Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1988 for her Adult Fiction historical novel about slavery, set in America during the mid-19th century. As slavery comes under attack from the abolitionists, the life of slave Sethe is changed forever. I have included Morrison on this list as I believe she is the perfect introduction to the ‘big themes’ novel and her vivid dialogue brings her well-drawn characters to life. Please note that this story does contain some scenes that sensitive readers may find upsetting. Morrison was named as one the ‘Thirty Most Powerful Women in America’ by the Ladies’ Home Journal.
- Book 6 - Dear Martin by Nic Stone
This title was written for older teens and gives a thought-provoking insight into American racial issues with a black honour student as the central character. Justyce decides to keep a journal of his writings to Martin Luther King Jr. after he is targeted in a racially-motivated arrest. ‘Dear Martin’ is the female author’s debut novel and is based upon the shootings of unarmed African-Americans. Stone handles this topical issue with great skill and avoids stereotyping her characters. I think the novel could also be used as an introduction to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. Some strong language is used as are racial slurs but this is in context with the story and never used for the ‘shock value’.
Some students (and some adults) are reluctant to dip their toes into reading classic fiction so I usually start with the shorter novels to build reading confidence. Focusing upon the genre/themes seems to be effective in helping students decide which classics to try. I believe that books become classics because they have themes that continue to resonate with modern readers. This is my list of recommended titles:
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- The 39 Steps by John Buchan
- Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
- The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
- The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
- A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
- Brighton Rock by Graham Greene
- A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
- White Fang by Jack London
- Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
- Dracula by Bram Stoker
- The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
- Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
If you would like some further classic reads, please check out the recommendations from Penguin book readers that made the Penguin top one hundred classics list:
Have a lovely summer holiday and keep reading!
Mrs Thornton BA (Hons) MCLIP
To see this article in full, with accompanying imagery, see pages 20 - 24 of the July edition of the Headteacher's Newsletter.