Tag Archives: Discussion

Required Reading: Books I Would Put on the Curriculum

Particularly in the last three years, following Michael Gove’s decision to axe American literature from the GCSE English reading list, I’ve paid close attention to the types of literature I’ve been exposed to in school. Here’s all the books I’ve studied from year six to year twelve:

studied

These books are great and generate a lot of discussion. This year, I’ve really enjoyed Tess of the d’Urbervilles. I don’t mean to say these texts aren’t worthy of studying – but classrooms would hugely benefit from more diverse and current books, especially from this century. This is already happening, to a certain extent – for example, with Noughts and Crosses.

I think YA is more likely to make an impact on a student’s life. The YA section in a bookstore is where you’ll find some of the most influential and life-changing reads, as well as a plethora of diverse stories. So much of what I read in these categories spark important discussions.

In my opinion, the current syllabuses fail to do so – of course, there’s discussion of race and patriarchy, but often in the context of eras gone by. As important as historical literature is, it’s also integral to make syllabuses inclusive of books that deal with issues in the current state of the world.

It’s also so vital children see themselves represented. I’m yet to find literature by authors of any Asian origin on a syllabus, and LGBT* representation is shockingly sparse. The ratio of black and female authors to white and male authors is also far from equal on reading lists.

So, what would I put on the curriculum?

A while ago, I wrote a post based on a Twitter discussion, about what books others would like to see in school. I wanted to revisit this idea, using some of my recent reads! Without further ado, here’s a shortlist of books I’d give students, if I had the power:

if you could be mine

GCSE and A Level: If You Could Be Mine is a beautifully written book about two girls in Iran, who have feelings for one another but can’t express it publicly. It would be awesome to see an Iranian author on the syllabus, and the story is an emotional one with lots of themes to be talked about in class, from sexuality and religion to society and tradition.

george

Middle Grade Reading: George would be a fantastic book to discuss with younger pupils. Not only is it a really fun, heartwarming read – it’s also the perfect way to start a discussion about gender with children and promote tolerance of trans kids. Trans children are more likely to feel alienated and be victims of bullying in school: wouldn’t it be incredible for them to see themselves in the books they read?

 

the bunker diary

A Level: The Bunker Diary is controversial, to say the least, and it’s incredibly hard hitting. That’s why I hesitated to put this on the list. But I think it would be fascinating to analyse for students who would feel comfortable talking about its themes. In particular, the narrative is a really interesting point; it’s constantly evolving and switching as the protagonist spends longer in the bunker.

the hate u give

GCSE: Especially on the GCSE curriculum, opportunity to talk about current events is very limited. Police brutality and racism in America is a really important topic to engage students in so they’re aware and informed. The Hate U Give is perfect for this. It’s also a fantastic read that’s hard to put down.

wide awake

GCSE and A Level: Wide Awake is definitely underrated and I’m always eager to recommend David Levithan! The current state of the US is pretty depressing, but this book explores the idea of a gay Jewish president being elected, and the diverse celebration surrounding his campaign. It’s brilliant! David Levithan’s writing is absolutely beautiful and it would be so wonderful for it to be reflected on in classrooms.

 

wonder

Middle Grade Reading: Wonder has to be on this list! I’m pretty sure some primary schools have already used this book as a talking point. Wonder is written from multiple perspectives and follows Auggie as he starts mainstream school with a facial deformity. This book is so heartwarming and has already inspired so many young people to promote kindness.

What books would you put on the curriculum?

 

 

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Confession: I Have Too Many Books (My Book Culling Tips)

Over the years I’ve bragged quite a bit about my fancy colour coded bookshelves. I often buy books because they look pretty. And I’m a sucker for a special edition. 

It’s very clear that I’m, uh, enthusiastic about holding onto books. When I counted how many I owned last year, it totalled around a thousand. Crazy, I know. I’m being constantly warned that if another book crosses the threshold of my room, the ceiling below will literally collapse. 

(don’t worry, this gif is looping, there is an end to my book collection!)

For the past sixteen years of my life, when anyone has questioned my book buying habits (very often), I’ve been quick to jump to my own defence. THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS TOO MANY BOOKS! I’ll yell, lovingly guarding the bookshelves (which seriously need dusting) that occupy half of my room. 

Last year, in a completely spontaneous decision, I managed to sort a box of books that I could part with. It was a painful process. I discarded books then frantically grabbed them back, unwilling to let go. It’s safe to say I’m obsessive about my books, even if I know I’ll never get around to reading them. It’s like a comfort; my room is surrounded by reading material I could never run out of. I’m reluctant to depart from books I’ve read too, even though it’s unlikely I’ll never read them again. They’re like snapshots lining my walls, from different points of my life, a huge collection of memories.

I decided a few weeks ago that I needed to try again, because the situation in my room was quite frankly ridiculous. In addition to the shelves lining one wall (and the two in the hallway…) I had stacks of books strewn across the floor, and proof copies piled beneath my bed so much so that they were practically holding it up. It had to change! I give in – sometimes, there *is* such a thing as having too many books. I needed some space. 

I didn’t even let myself think about what I was doing. My “to-read pile” is actually three “to-read-bookshelves” and although I would love to get around to reading everything, it’s unlikely I ever will. Studying is intense, my interests are changing, and I just don’t have the time. Some of these books were simply collecting dust, unloved, and I realised someone else could be enjoying them. 

Over the course of two hours, I had seven bags of books to shift. What?! Here’s where they’ve gone off to, and why I decided to take them there:

  • WeBuyBooks: there are lots of companies that will buy books from you, such as Ziffit, but I found this app to be the most accessible. Simply download it to your phone and use the camera to scan barcodes; it’ll tell you if they’ll accept it, and if so how much for. Prices can range from about 20p to £3.00, so if you’re looking for some extra money, it’s a great option, especially when you’re culling a lot of books. I totalled just £10 on here, which isn’t a massive amount, but I mean, it’s pretty good for half an hour of zapping books!
  • The train station: stations around me often have shelves inside, where second hand books are left for other commuters. I really like how these circulate. Books can end up anywhere! Someone might pick one up just to flick through on a commute and leave it somewhere else, or another person might discover it and fall in love. So if you’re near a station, why not drop some off?

(also: book culling was a great way to get some use out of my many bookish tote bags)

  • My school library: libraries across the country are lacking in funding, and school ones hardly get any budget. Yet they’re thriving places that would greatly value new books to inspire teenagers’ reading. Five of my seven bags are headed for my school’s library, and I’ve made sure those bags include the newest titles I’ve decided to part with. I hope children in the years below me enjoy them; maybe they’ll find their new favourite book. It’s especially a good idea to donate to school libraries in areas where not a lot of children read. From my time at school, I know that the majority of the year groups don’t read for fun. It’s important to inspire that. 
  • Charity shops: none of my books this time around went here, but it’s worth a mention for all the other times I’ve chosen these places. Living near a high street with a countless number of them, charity shops are easy to donate to and often willing to take new books. And of course, you’re helping another good cause! Good on you. 

Thinking of getting rid of some books? Here’s some other ideas:

  • leave them on trains, buses and benches with notes
  • Donate to community centres and local schools, especially for fundraisers
  • Recommend some to friends or family members who might be interested
  • Sell them online, through eBay or sites like Ziffit
  • Give them away, through your blog, Twitter or Instagram

And if you’re wondering? I got rid of about 200 books, yet my shelves are still full. I DON’T KNOW HOW EITHER. I better do another book cull soon.

By The Book Tag | Questionnaire

The lovely Jess from bookendsandendings tagged me in this, and I don’t usually do book tags, but I thought I’d join in! 🙂 I needed something like this to get back into the swing of blogging. Tagging: Anyone who’d like to answer these questions.

  1. What book is on your nightstand now?

At the time of writing, it’s Lost Stars by Lisa Selin Davis – you might recognise the title as Lisa visited here for the blog tour a few weeks ago! I’m around a third of the way through, and I’m really enjoying it, but ohhhh my goodness the A Level homework is piling up. This weekend I’ve had about four essays to write. It’s ridiculous. So hopefully, when my workload starts to ease up, I can get back to it!

  1. What was the last truly great book that you read?

I had to consult Goodreads for this, and narrow it down, because I have read so many fantastic books this year. I’m going to have to say UNBOXED by Non Pratt (my review graphic is here!) as it was so beautifully moving and it’s been on my mind since I put it down, which was weeks ago. It had some wonderfully unique and original characters. The simple concept of the book was pulled off beautifully, and moved me to tears. Actual tears.

  1. If you could meet any writer – dead or alive – who would it be? And what would you want to know?

I really want to meet Haruki Murakami. I’ve only read about three of his works, and they aren’t my usual genre, but I could honestly read exclusively Murakami books for the rest of my life. His writing is just so beautiful and his books have a tone that I just really resonate with. I got into his work just after he did a UK book tour – gaaah! I don’t know what I would like to know from him, specifically… I just think being in the same room as him would be pretty epic.

  1. What books might we be surprised to find on your shelves?

This is quite hard, because I own such an eclectic mixture of things! YA is what you’ll mainly find on my shelves, but I’d like to think I read quite widely, and I hardly ever cull books so you can see how my tastes have changed over time. Some random non-YA picks I own: Forensics for Dummies, a large collection of 80s Fighting Fantasy editions, and about twenty annuals of The Dandy comic.

  1. How do you organize your personal library?

Ooh, this is a long one to explain. I have two ‘main’ bookshelves in my room which are occupied by YA and classics that I’ve read, in colour order. I have stacks and shelves of books yet to be read. And a few shelves outside of my bedroom, which is where my signed books are, as well as various other books I can’t fit on any other shelves. IF you want a better explanation, plus some visuals… here’s my bookshelf tour post!

  1. What book have you always meant to read and haven’t gotten around to yet? Anything you feel embarrassed never to have read?

THERE ARE SO MANY. I have never read Pride and Prejudice, or many classics at all for that matter. I’ve also abandoned some very popular series and trilogies – mainly because I didn’t have the time and they’re big chunky books – like Dreams of Gods and Monsters, City of Heavenly Fire and Requiem.

  1. Disappointing, overrated, just not good: what book did you feel you were supposed to like but didn’t? Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?

I recently read The Great Gatsby as prep for A Level English, and I was honestly just so bored while reading it. I wasn’t processing it properly, and it just didn’t capture me. But, with a lot of classic fiction, I usually get more into the story when I’m analysing it in class, so, we’ll see! I don’t actually remember what book I just didn’t finish. I’ve hardly ever DNF’ed books.

  1. What kinds of stories are you drawn to? Any you stay clear of?

At the moment, I’m drawn to fresh and exciting contemporary fiction, predominately LGBT* fiction. I have so much on my to-read list. I’d like to read more widely and diversely. As for books I stay clear of – I just cannot get into books that are traditional romances – there has to bee something really outstanding about it.

  1. If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?

Considering the current political climate, and the fact that the electoral college will probably stick with their selections – Donald Trump is going to be president. Ugh. UGH. UGH. I could write a thousand page book on my feelings about this.

I think I’ll recommend him Wide Awake by David Levithan, which is about a presidential election where a gay Jewish president is set to be elected. It’s been years since I read this, but from what I remember, it follows a group of diverse youth in a campaign to support this candidate, with a strong sense of community, strength and pride. So, yep, I’d very much like Donald Trump to read this book, partly to show him what America should look like, and partly to show him that he’s gone about everything wrong. And also I think making him read about a gay Jewish president would really hurt his feelings. (thumbs up emoji)

  1. What do you plan to read next?

There is so much on my to-read pile right now, and I’m really indecisive! I have lots of review copies that look great, such as Wide Awake by Angie Stanton and Wing Jones by Katherine Webber. I’m really excited to see what those are like.

Ctrl, Alt; Delete: Social Media and Me

26085734If you’re wondering what Ctrl, Alt; Delete is, you’ve been living under a rock and/or haven’t used Twitter in a year. Emma Gannon, social media whizz, blogger and writer has written the memoir everyone from the Internet age needs to read. It’s a fantastic book – I couldn’t wait for it to come out, and I devoured it.

It’s a brilliant insight into Emma’s life, her online world, and how she’a turned her love for social media and online content into a highly successful career. She started off on Myspace, and now writes for huge media outlets, alongside running her highly successful blog and podcast.

Although I’m only 16, like Emma Gannon I have grown up with the Internet. I can’t really remember a time before it was a daily part of my life. So inevitably, I adored reading about Emma’s online experiences – so much of it was (sometimes painfully) relatable. Ctrl, Alt; Delete is hilarious and entertaining, but also raises some very interesting discussion points. Where do you draw the line between personal life and what you share online? How can you tell if people are real? How on earth do we discover small, talented bloggers when there are so many sites out there?

One of the things I love most about the book is that it’s essentially a timeline of Emma’s online life.  It made me think a lot about how my internet use has changed over the years. I thought it would be quite funny to make a timeline:

timeline

I think it’s so fascinating to think about how much of my life has been shaped online. I used to write and draw in diaries up until age ten, and now virtually everything I do is written on a blog, an online notepad, drawn with my graphics tablet, programmed onto a Calendar.

I think I’m very open on the internet, and there is quite a blurred line between my online life and my ‘private’ one. If I go out for a day with friends, I won’t necessarily talk about it online, but I will turn my photos into a blog post. If I’m struggling with school, I’ll complain on Twitter and Tumblr. I switch between talking to my friends to sending them gifs on Tumblr, when we’re both in the same room. Heck, even my Media Studies coursework is entirely virtual, written on a private school blog.

A lot of people probably view my largely-online life as a bad thing. My eyes are probably so bad because I’m on the computer all the time. I don’t really like socialising IRL. I’m not very good at holding a conversation, unless it’s through social media, and I probably should get out more.

But I love it. I love growing up online. The Internet has given me so many opportunities that never would have been presented to me otherwise. I’m studying Photography and Media because I’m fascinated by editing images and online culture. I’m gaining work experience and networking just by running my blogs. I’ve met the most incredible people in my life, whom I talk to every day. I don’t know how I’d live without all of this.

So, I want to know what you think. How much of your life is online? Do you control what people see on your social media, or are you an open book?

Bookstagram: Bookish Photography and Accounts I Love

2016-01-31 (11)I really love Instagram – After neglecting my old account for ages, I set up a new one connected with this blog a year ago. Although admittedly I don’t post as often as many people (my phone’s camera isn’t great, so I upload my DSLR photos using a computer client) – it’s probably my favourite social media app. I adore books, and I adore photography, so the ‘bookstagram’ community, a combination of the two, is the coolest thing.

A lot of accounts on Instagram that I follow have beautiful feeds, following colour schemes and styles. I really admire the artistic effort that goes into many Instagram feeds I follow – as weird as it may sound, Instagram has made me very aware of aesthetics in photography and how to master them.

Here are some accounts I follow that I really love!

@therainingwords – Madiya’s account is just so simplistically gorgeous. Every photo is minimalistic but eye catching, composed really nicely and many are Harry Potter themed, which is a plus 🙂

@themilelongbookshelf – Amber’s Instagram captures such a wide range of books and I really love her creative shots.

@hawwaetc – although more art, not just books, I have to include Hawwa’s account in this post! Hawwa’s journaling and photography and just everything is so beautiful.

@blueeyedbiblio – I love the aesthetic of Emily’s Instagram feed, and it’s no wonder she has over 100,000 followers. I love the range of b&w and warm photos. It feels so cosy and autumnal!

@lucythereader – Lucy’s Instagram is definitely one to follow, as she shares many photos of lovely UKYA titles, and often her guinea pigs with said books. I have no idea how she manages to get her guinea pigs to stay in the shot (my pets would never), so kudos.

@booksandquills – Sanne’s Instagram feed is full of pretty books, much like her YouTube channel. Bonus: lots of photogenic food and London scenery.

@teaplusbooks – I really love this account because all of the photos are equally simple and bursting with colour, which is lovely!

@penguinplatform – Penguin’s new YA platform for teens is so great, and their Instagram feed is always bustling with the latest news about Penguin books, events, and just beautiful photos.

I really admire everyone’s artistic photography skills on Instagram. I can never stick to a ‘theme,’ even for a few photos, so my feed is always quite bizarre. But what I do often try to do is take photos of my favourite books with settings or objects that I relate to them – for example, Keren David’s This is Not a Love Story is set in Amsterdam, so just after I came back from visiting there, I photographed it with my boarding pass and map. Here’s a few other favourites!*

I’m hoping, in the future, to post more of these types of photos, as I really love matching the backdrop or surrounding props with photos. It’s a fun challenge!

PicMonkey Collage

*please note that this post has been scheduled months in advance so these are not the most recent photos on my Instagram. (Right now I’m 99% likely to be sobbing underneath a pile of textbooks / in an exam hall) 😛

Do you use Instagram? What do you like about it, and whose posts do you enjoy following?

Reading and Revising: How I’m Balancing Both in Year 11

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Most people probably know, because I moan about it enough on this blog and social media – I’m in year eleven. And exam season is approaching. And that’s pretty scary.

Whilst I’m so eager to revise lots and get my grades, because they mean a lot – I’m also eager to read lots and get blog posts up, because to me, that’s an equally big part of my life (and the more fun part). Last year, I took a couple of GCSEs early, and found it incredibly hard to just put those books down and revise, dammit. I spent the entirety of April/May of 2015 either revising and being annoyed that I wasn’t reading, or reading and being annoyed that I wasn’t revising. A vicious cycle, you’ll agree, but an unavoidable struggle for any bookworm.

As the majority of my GCSEs (and the most important ones, to me) are happening this year, I’ve decided that I need to approach exam season with a healthy, balanced way of doing both what I love, and what I need to do. Many people are great at making schedules and timetables, but I find it hard to stick to allocated times, and would panic if I didn’t commit to a set order.

I realised (after tumblring about my revision methods and a lot of people saying it was useful) that it may be worth sharing my goals, tips and ideas on how to balance reading and revising. Hopefully, this might come in handy to you, if you’re taking exams!

Set a realistic reading goal:

If I neglect reading for ages, I only get into a reading slump, which saddens me more than anything else. Over the past few years, I’ve read 2/3 books a week on average. This exam season, I’m restricting myself to one book/graphic novel/etc a week. A manageable number for me, and it’ll keep me kinda sane whilst studying and sitting exams.

Use reading as a reward:

 I read this thing online where you can treat yourself with something small like a jelly baby or a piece of chocolate for every page of a textbook you revise from. I try to eat on revision breaks instead (otherwise I just stare blankly at a page while stuffing my face with chocolate) so I’m replacing the edible reward with a chapter of a book. I’m a person who has to write out stuff in order to revise – so for example with my science revision, I’ll let myself read a chapter once I’ve written out the key info, or answered example questions, for one topic.

Use online time wisely:

I have online science, maths and languages work on apps such as Duolingo, and blogging is always the much more fun alternative, so I’ll procrastinate online work by doing that (cough, definitely not what I’m doing by writing this post – oh the irony, cough). I’ve set myself a goal for each online revision app I have, and for my blog. At the time of writing this, my current goal is to write a blog post a week, and visit each revision app once a day. It’s working so far!

Novellas!

Over the past few months, I’ve been hoarding saving some short reads for the next couple of months. If I start a really long book just before an exam, I know I’ll just binge-read it instead of getting some crucial revision in. With novellas, I find that I usually read them quite quickly, and I know that I can put them down and just finish them in a second or third sitting. This also applies to graphic novels and comics – I’m hoping to buy a lot of series I’ve been behind on (Ms Marvel!!) so I can read issues between studying.

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If you’re also currently studying – how are you balancing it with your hobbies? What methods do you use to make sure you’re studying enough, but also enjoying your hobbies?

GCSE English Literature | A Call for Diversity on the Curriculum

NOTE: Although this post references the English Lit syllabus as a whole, I have not researched fully into the poetry and short stories lists so cannot comment on these.

I really enjoy studying English Literature at GCSE – many people detest dissecting fiction and digging for deeper meanings – but more often than not, I actually find it quite interesting.

I’m in year eleven and the two books I’m studying are Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls (the only other pieces of literature I have studied at GCSE are two Shakespeare plays). I enjoy the books outside of the classroom – I think they’re important, touch on interesting themes, and are unforgettable.

However, recently I started thinking about what I would have loved to study, alternatively, at GCSE. Out of curiosity, I checked out all of the prose and drama books on the syllabus on the BBC Bitesize website and made a list of the writers currently on the curriculum.

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These stats are quite sad. And the curriculum is subject to change for the next exam series, but it is in fact reducing the amount of foreign literature.

I know that the literary works on the syllabus are all there for very valid reasons – many are life-changing, controversial and important books to talk about. Of the ones I’ve have read, they’re fantastic – take An Inspector Calls, which might well be my favourite 20th Century work.

However, the diversity is really lacking. For example – schools in England and Wales couldn’t even talk about LGBT* books until 2003, when Section 28, barring ‘positive portrayal’ of homosexuality, was repealed. Sadly, it’s clear that the English curriculum hasn’t made huge steps to become more inclusive after this.

There are so many books that could make the syllabus better. I know that most teenagers in my school and others dislike studying English Lit. Would the enjoyment and engagement in the classroom not be improved if we changed it up a bit?

How fantastic would it be to see some modern YA fiction? More books by PoC and LGBT* authors – and/or books with these minority characters as protagonists? Most works on the curriculum, although yes, incredibly important books and plays, all fall into very similar categories in that they are largely 20th Century / Shakespeare / written by people of similar backgrounds.

I talked to some friends in my English class about what they thought, and everyone seems to share the same opinion: if we had a more diverse range of books, students would be more interested in the classroom. Having a wider range of fiction available to study could make a huge impact. Everybody knows that representation of different groups of people can get more students interested in reading, as people can relate to and resonate with writers and stories – which can encourage people to enjoy literature outside of the classroom and later in life. And, at least in my school, I’m aware that people would like to study more books from recent years.

Isn’t it time we looked at some books that would be awesome in classrooms?

I took to Twitter and asked for suggestions. Here’s the fantastic responses! (The picture below is hyperlinked to my original tweet, in case people have replied after I put these together)

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(yes i like drop shadows fight me)

Of the ones suggested that’s I’ve read, I 100% agree. I think if I had the power to put any book on the curriculum, I would choose Lies We tell Ourselves by Robin Talley. Lies We Tell Ourselves is a stunning, conversation-starting book about race and sexuality in the 1950’s, which would be fantastic to write about and discuss in class.

I would love to know your opinion on the English Curriculum, as I think it’s a topic worth discussing more. Do leave a comment, or contribute on Twitter!

Thanks to Ellen for providing feedback and some facts about Section 28.