CarnegieGreenaway children's book awards

11th July 2003 at 01:00
The winners of the Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals for children's books are announced at lunchtime today. Elaine Williams finds out how many primary pupils have formed their own opinions on the shortlist

Children at Queen's primary in Kew, in the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames, have turned questioning into an art form. They have a habit of asking those stop-you-in-your-tracks questions that make you think until your brain hurts - the kind any self-respecting critic or journalist should ask.

On the day of the TES visit, Years 4 and 5 are being put through their paces testing on younger pupils the picture books shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Ela Kaczmarska, a teacher leading the shadowing, reminds the older pupils of the skills involved. "Don't just read the book straight off," she says. "You must watch the children and their expressions, you must listen to their questions, ask questions yourself and think about their reaction."

Up to 20 pupils from Years 4 and 5 are split into teams of three, each taking a shortlisted Greenaway book to read to a small group of Year 1s (Year 6s judged the Carnegie contenders). While one pupil reads and asks questions, a second evaluates the quality of those questions and the younger pupils' responses. Part of the learning process is for the nine-year-olds to realise that the younger children's responses are more sophisticated than they might have bargained for.

When reading Lauren Child's That Pesky Rat, Holly Layton in Year 5 is stopped in her tracks by Ava Wesson in Year 1. "In real life, dogs can't do jigsaw puzzles, can they?" asks Ava. "I know it's a bit confusing," empathises Holly, only to be put in her place. "Oh it's all right," confides Ava, "because this is a fiction book."

Queen's is a beacon school that specialises in thinking skills and, says headteacher Jane Goodlace, uses the Carnegie and Greenaway shadowing exercise to this end, encouraging its many able children not only to read quality books, but also to talk and write about why they think these books are worthy, or not, of an award. As part of this initiative their reviews have been posted on the school's website and the best are being displayed in the local bookshop.

Visit the Carnegie Greenaway website for details of othernbsp;shadowing projects and young readers' reviews

Check back with the TES website on Friday at 1pm for news of the winning books.

Read more in this week's TES

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