The Guardian's 1000 novels everyone 'should' read

I bought every edition of The Guardian newspaper last week, to see which are the 1000 novels I must read. It was of course a very interesting list, but I found it a little depressing. Very few people will have read anywhere near all of the books listed, and I think a better title might have been 1000 novels everyone should read.

It did make me think of the readers we partner in schools, and I know these supplements are not aimed at them, but this list is so far from their frame-of-reference. I look forward to the edition that lists the 1000 novels under 200 pages, with some funky illustrations and in a nice big font.

For what it is worth, the section that contained the most novels I had actually read was the Science Fiction and Fantasy section. This says much about my fourteen year-old self and the amount of free time I had at that age. To celebrate here is a picture of Alex from a Clockwork Orange, still my fancy dress outfit of choice.


Michael Rosen's underpants

A good day today. I placed a new volunteer at All Saints school and I think she is going to fit in really well. I had a meeting at Fir Vale school with lots of interesting ideas for community reading projects. But (and no disrespect to All Saints or Fir Vale) the winner is Newfield school, where I was invited to celebrate the opening of their new building to see the wonderful Michael Rosen perform. Louise the Librarian at Newfield had organised the day had got a great audience together; Newfield students and hangers-on like me, but the the room was mainly full of children from local primary schools who got so much out of their visit, and I bet a lot of them are looking forward to their seconadry education a whole lot more after today.
Michael Rosen is such as personable guy, no one could take their eyes off him. Having said that, my favourite bit was a story which included some underpants that ended up on a ceiling light, and as Michael pointed at the ceiling half the children looked up and I am sure many of them saw the underpants! There was no great theme or message to the performance just a lot of super stories and poems and confirmation that we are all writers to some degree. Plus I got my book signed, actually 4-mont old Rose got her book signed!

I might be breaking some copyrights here, but I wanted to share the poem that we all performed together, I think it's great and helps reaffirm why I do what I do at Reading Matters.

Words Are Ours by Michael Rosen

In the beginning was the word
and the word is ours

The names of places,
the names of flowers,
the names of names,
words are ours.

Page turners
for early learners

How to boil an egg
or mend a leg

Words are ours

Love hearts

Sports reports
Short retorts

Jam-jar labels

Words are ours

Following the instructions
for furniture constructions

Ancient mythologies
Online anthologies

Who she wrote for
Who to vote for

Joke collections
Results of elections

Words are ours

The tale’s got you gripped
Have you learned your script?

The method of an experiment
Ingredients for merriment

W8n 4ur txt
Re: whts nxt

Print media

Words are ours

Subtitles on TV
Details on your CV

Book of great speeches
Guide to the best beaches

Looking for chapters
on velociraptors

Words are ours

The mystery of history
The history of mystery

The views of news
The news of views

Words to explain
the words for pain.

Doing geography

What to do in pay-phones
Goodbyes on gravestones

Words are ours

from www.readingforlife.org.uk


Snow in Silverdale

Today, in a minor stow storm, I visited the new Silverdale school in Bents Green. I was visiting with the first volunteer whom I have seen through the whole process myself, from recruitment, training and now placing in the school. The school staff were very welcoming and helpful, it was a very satisfying experience. Silverdale is yet another school in Sheffield with great new building. The upgrade in location also seems to be a catalyst for a new way of working, the building has numerous 'break-out' areas for groups of students to meet and work. Perfect for Reading Matters reading sessions. This change is also born out in the school staff attitude to Reading Matters volunteers, we discussed working along side student Reading Leaders and staff as a really well-organised team of reading champions.

So there is lots happening and there is lots to plan, but it is exciting times at snowy Silverdale.


Would you like to work for Reading Matters in Sheffield and Rotherham?

Just a quick post to draw you attention to a vacancy for a senior field worker for Reading Matters in Sheffield and Rotherham. You would be working along side me, Richard, with an emphasis on training and supporting our network of community volunteers.
  • Hours of work: 3 hours per week, school term only (39 weeks a year)
  • Leave: 4 weeks per annum (to be taken in school holidays)
  • Salary: £5,651 p.a. (£10.11 per hour) Closing date: Monday 26 January 2009

See the Reading Matters website for more information and to download an application pack.


Books without words

I visited King Edward VII (lower) school earlier in the week. A bit of new year sickness and general busyness meant I didn't meet everyone involved with Reading Matters at the school, but we have a great reading programme there, with lots of potential for future work.

I have a lot of meeting in libraries and I am always getting distracted by the materials on offer. The library at King Edward's was especially good, it even had a nice little veranda for outdoor reading; it was way too cold when I visited, but in the summer it will be a perfect spot for
Reading Matters sessions.

I even got a bit of homework; to find a particular book that tells a story without any text. I am not sure I have exactly the right one, but Flotsam by David Wisner looks pretty good. Books that do not use words might seem like an odd choice for a organisation that is all about reading, but they are a perfect way to get reluctant partners familiar with books, to use their imagination and not be intimidated by text. A good idea for an early Reading Matters session. Flotsam seems to be pitched just right and although it is a 'picture book' I don't think it will be viewed as being 'to young'.

Whilst researching I came across a number of other books without words that might be of interest:


Christmas and new year reading

Welcome back, how is 2009 for you so far?

I hope you all had good Christmas breaks. I don't know about you, but I view all my holidays as opportunities to do a bit of extra reading (four-month-olds have different ideas about this).

This Christmas I read the following:
  • Tunnels by Roderick Gordon; Brian Williams - I think this was self-published, and whilst there are some great ideas and a good story it needed editing down to a nice short snappy novel, the sequel is over 600 pages!
  • Teacher's Dead by Benjamin Zephaniah - Very gripping and gritty, and a very relevant insight into knife crime.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy - This has a very comic feel in tone and presentation, but some of the ground it covers is pretty harrowing; murder, torture, violence and revenge, still a page-turner.
  • Here Lies Arthur by Philip Reeve - I loved this, and now want to check out his other work, it is a highly believable retelling of the Arthur story and is more about the creation of myths and stories than swash-buckling exploits.
  • Mister Roberts by Alexi Sayle - Not a children's book but despite the odd swear word it isn't going to shock any teenagers, and it is perhaps the shorter than all the books above. A story with aliens, robots, gangsters and drop-outs but with a very tender heart. Alexi Sayle was one of my heroes for his comedy in the 80s and is pretty much the same for his books in the 00s.
Now I am on to Baby-led Weaning which is far less exiting!