Skyping Ruta Sepetys in America

Salt to the sea

When Carnegie Shadowing Groups were offered a Skype event with the author of Salt to the Sea, we jumped at the chance. Luckily we managed to secure a date – 1.15pm here, 7.15am in the US!

By the time the day arrived over half the group had read the book and many are urging it to win, as seen on our Barometer reading taken yesterday:

Barometer reading May

As well as reading the book, we also watched the video on the Shadowing website, where Ruta talks about her work and gives the little-known background to her heart breaking story of passengers on the torpedoed Wilhelm Gustlov ship in 1945:


Unfortunately the network was unable to allow us to have a video conversation, so we got messaging instead. This might well have worked better as with a room of 35 excited students it could have got rather noisy. So, we set Mrs Gibson up with the laptop and students clamoured behind her in the queue to ask questions! We publish the transcript here, but please excuse the dodging spelling and punctuation (Mrs Gibson was struggling to keep up!) and a few time delays:

Skpye transcript

Click here for the Skype transcript with Ruta Sepetys

We hope this inspires you to pick up the book too. Hidden stories need to be heard and you may never feel the same again.





The power of stories, with Non Pratt

Things are quieter again in Library Land after a hectic and inspiring day with Non Pratt yesterday. She came in to school to work with Year 9; running two writing workshops and giving a presentation on the Power of Stories to 150 students in the afternoon.

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Writing workshops focused on building a step-by-step realistic character background for old favourites like Dora, The Explorer, Scar and Darth Vader. We finished by flipping well know characteristics to see how that would alter the story, so Darth Vader became good, Scar transformed into an elephant and Dora developed a visual impairment!

Creating interesting dialogue can be really tricky but with Non steering students through a scene of Hansel and Gretel we were so proud of the final achievements.

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Non’s presentation on The Power of Stories urged students to engage with and question the stories they encounter in books, film, TV and the news. She encouraged them to use the Bechdel Test when watching a film and challenge dated stereotypes still promoted by the  media. We loved the Ask-me-anything session in the middle of her presentation!

Thank you so much Non for spending time with us and firing us up with your enthusiasm and humour. Your lunchtime companions were thrilled to meet you and are fighting over our lovely signed copy of your new book!!!



The power of stories: Non Pratt working with Year 9.

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Hurrah, we invited Non Pratt back into school, after a great day with her last year – and she accepted!

She will be giving a presentation to half the year group in the afternoon about her work as a writer and the Power of stories – as usual bringing in ideas from films, TV and the news, not just books.

In the morning two lucky groups of students, chosen by their English Teachers, will be working more closely with her on Character creation and Doing the Dialogue.

Students Y8-10 who are not doing English P5 on Wednesday 10th May can come to the library and ask for a ticket for the Presentation, The power of stories.


Books are my Bag

World Book Night, primarily aimed at adults, takes place in the UK and America every year on 23rd April, the suggested birth and death date for Shakespeare and UNESCO’s International Day of the Book. It is globally recognised that reading for pleasure is an indicator for issues from poverty to mental health and here in the UK 36% of adults do not read regularly. So, the aim is simple: to get more adults reading!

We have used WBN as a backdrop for an event with 6th form over the past few years. They use the library brilliantly for private study but rarely borrow for pleasure! This year there appears to have been a squeeze on the WBN budget and the public has been encouraged to gift books themselves rather than relying on the lovely packs that the organisation produces.

So the Library Ladiez sent out a plea before the Easter holidays to all staff, asking them to “gift” a favourite book of theirs along with a brief note saying why they thought a 6th former would enjoy it.

We were thrilled to receive over 50 books on our return; new, old, pristine, tatty books belonging to all kinds of genres. Miss Usoro, Head of Maths and a keen reader, donated a box of 20, each with a post-it note of persuasion! During the next few days we made up packages, each with a bright label containing the teacher’s name and their words of recommendation, which took over every part of our office space!

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As with every year, students are a little suspicious of our generosity and may not be the keenest of readers (or have just got out of the habit or reading for pleasure during their exam years) but curiosity gets the better of them. It only took 15 minutes for all books to be chosen from a display set up in the common room at lunchtime! We hope they enjoy their book, maybe something they would not normally have chosen – and hopefully they too, will be inspired to pass it on to someone else to enjoy.

HUGE thanks to all the teachers and support staff for their passion – and for giving up some treasured possessions!

Year 7 Reading Challenge

We have usually set our Reading Challenge for the year by now, but we have been trying to set up something that would challenge ALL readers, not just the keen and able. In the past we have tried to encourage reading as many books as possible in a set time and given prizes to winning tutor groups. But on reflection, we are pretty sure that many less keen readers tend to sit back and let the others do the work! So, inspired by Bennett Memorial Diocesan School and encouraged by English teacher Mrs Rose,  we have decided upon a change of plan this year.

All students are being set the task to read a book a term for the last two terms of the year, starting NOW. We are launching the challenge in Reading lessons and ensuring that ALL students leave with a suitable book (whether chosen from the library or from home). Our guidelines are below:

Challenge outline for blog

We will not be seeing students for 4 weeks due to the Easter holidays, which give them plenty of time for them to have a good read and finish, or nearly finish their chosen book.

Upon return, we will then be writing our first Critical Review together in class and choosing a creative activity to do for homework next term, in response to what we have read:

Activities for blog

So far most students have left us happy, and some have even chosen borrow two books, just to be on the safe side! The Library Ladiez are looking forward to hearing all about them next term (as we never have time to read all our books).


Doing something BOOKY for World Book Day

Sorry to have not got back to you about our Scholastic Book Fair, but we were so busy last week, there was no time! But now it has been returned. we have counted our takings and  students can be seen around the school enjoying new books of their own.

All Y7-9 students received their WBD £1 voucher during the week and many spent them with us. If you kept yours don’t forget that you have until March 26th to redeem it against a book at participating book shops. Remember to use voucyer

Maybe put it towards one of the special WBD books that can be obtained using a voucher only.  Younger students may enjoy a new Famous Five story or a tale by David Walliams while Island by David Almond and Dead of night by Michael Grant are great for teenagers.

WBD books

Staff and students from Ed Support popped over to choose some items on commission for their bookshelves.

On the actual World Book Day the Librarians were joined by some of the English staff in dressing up as their favourite characters.

So we would like to thank everyone who came to visit the Book Fair, the English staff for giving up time in their lessons for students to look around and collect their vouchers, and the parents who supported us. As always, we have made a healthy commission which will be distributed amongst Ed Support, English and the Library.



Book Fair preparations are underway

We have begun promoting the Scholastic Book Fair to Y7,8,9 students before the 1/2 term holiday. It will be in school from 27th February – 3rd March in the Library.

Scholastic always give us £5 Book Tokens to offer as prizes and we are running competitions for them in Y8 and Y9 Library Lessons. Y7s are being encouraged to compose a Harry Potter Acrostic Poem over the holiday period to be handed in to the Library Ladiez by 24th February. The Book Tokens can be spent at the Book Fair.