Skip to main content

Teacher panellist enlists allies to help climb book mountain

Pupils, friends, the local barman - an army of reading assistants whittle down 120 titles to magic 12

News article image

Pupils, friends, the local barman - an army of reading assistants whittle down 120 titles to magic 12

When Rosalind Waite-Jones, a teacher at Littlehampton Academy in West Sussex, was invited to help choose 12 books for 11-year-olds, she was delighted.

But then 120 books arrived.

Her role - as one of the five Booked Up panellists - was to help to whittle down the selection to provide Year 7 children with a varied selection of books, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry.

Booked Up is a government-funded programme that sees all new secondary pupils get to choose a free book from a list of 12 titles.

Mrs Waite-Jones had been chosen to sit on the panel that picked this year's shortlist.

"It was like being a Booker Prize judge for me," she said. "But I couldn't possibly read them all. I work full-time and have four-year-old twins, so I roped in a team of readers.

"I work with Year 7 children every day, so I had a team of pupils at the school reading books for me and giving feedback.

"Then I just asked everyone I knew - my friends, my husband, the barman, Matt, in our local pub - he got Diary of a Wimpy Kid. He thought it was great."

Mrs Waite-Jones, 43, said: "I've had lots of great moments in my career, but this was an absolute joy - a real highlight.

"One book, Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, is about a boy with ADHD. I gave it to one of my pupils who had ADHD to read and she loved the fact that the boy wasn't really naughty. She thought it summed it up brilliantly.

"There are children who don't always shine because they are quiet and like to read - but this gave them the chance to shine. I had a boy with special needs who got a book from the box and read it with his teaching assistant. He was virtually illiterate, but he was being treated no differently from anybody else.

"With Booked Up, children get to choose the books they want. It is not a book that everyone says you should read. It's a free book that you choose yourself. That is a big deal for the children."

The programme is run by the national charity Booktrust as a way of encouraging reading for pleasure and is funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.

Pupils starting at Littlehampton this year will get the chance to choose from the books that their predecessors helped to shortlist.

The school remains closely involved with Booked Up. Pupils will be making videos about the scheme to go on its website later this year.

And for some, it seems, the scheme is simply beyond expectations. Mrs Waite-Jones said: "We did have one parent last year who rang up to say was it true that their child had come home with a free book? Or had they nicked it?"


1. Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

2. Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy

3. Why Eating Bogeys is Good for You by Mitchell Symons

4. The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick

5. Read Me and Laugh by Gaby Morgan


Flood Child by Emily Diamand

Read Me Out Loud! Poetry anthology

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

Once by Morris Gleitzman

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

Desirable by Frank Cottrell Boyce

WOW! 366, a speedy short story collection

Blood Hunters by Steve Voake

Underworld by Catherine MacPhail

An Urgent Message of Wowness by Karen McCombie

How Loud Can You Burp? by Glenn Murphy.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you