Pupils' literary review

25th February 2005 at 00:00
Taking the adult dimension out of reading is encouraging pupils to pick up books and enjoy them.

Every Thursday lunchtime members of the West Wales children's book group congregate in the library at Pembroke school to review and select the titles they deem worthy of inclusion in the Red House children's book awards shortlist. Shortlisted books, and eventual winners, are entirely chosen by children - adult opinion counts for nothing.

Liz Smith, Pembroke school's librarian, who oversees the weekly sessions, says that bookishness has earned cred because the students run their own show with minimal adult intervention.

"Young people get a kick out of doing things if grown-ups are kept out of the equation," she says.

"They like to ask me what I think of the books, but they are glad that I don't have a say in the final selection."

Book club member Eleri Evans, 13, likes Eragon, by Christopher Paolini, because it is "exciting from start to finish".

She adds: "I enjoy the debating aspect of the book group. Even if I dislike a book, I'll look for something positive to say about it. Having to review it makes you see it in a different way, it makes you wonder what someone else might like about it. " Liam Hart, 12, is unfazed at being one of just four boys. "I like something fast-moving with a good storyline and some humour. We have arguments over which books we like and which ones we hate, but that's part of the fun."

The West Wales group operates under the umbrella of the Federation of Children's Book Groups (set up 30 years ago by Anne Wood, originator of The Teletubbies). The UK-wide federation also co-ordinates the Red House awards.

Pupils in the UK's junior and senior schools function as "test groups" to whittle down the annual output of books to the select few that make it to the Red House shortlist in three categories.

Philippa Perry, spokeswoman for the awards, says: "Children choose different titles to the ones adults choose for them. They like to be entertained when they read, whereas adults tend to be rather more worthy in their choices."

Eva John, advisory teacher for literacy based at Pembrokeshire teachers'

centre, delivers the cartloads of books to the region's five to 18-year-old book-groupers.

"Reviewing books gives the children a reason for reading, which is important for boys and children from non-literary homes," she says. "Once they are hooked they tend to carry on reading."

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