Thursday 16 May, a group of students from John Smeaton Academy attended a special ceremony at Leeds Civic Hall to celebrate their participation in the Leeds Book Award.
Run by Leeds School Library Service and Leeds Public Libraries, the Leeds Book Award is an initiative open to secondary school children across the city that encourages reading, speaking and listening. As part of the initiative, students read six shortlisted books over the course of four months and come together in regular school-based meetings to discuss what they have read and learnt.
At John Smeaton Academy, fifteen students in Years 7-9 took part in the award, forming a Leeds Book Awards Book Club. They met once a week in the school library to read and critically discuss the following shortlisted novels: Bone Talk by Candy Gourlay, The Book Case: An Emily Lime Mystery by Dave Shelton, Below Zero by Dan Smith, Child I by Steve Tasane, Mud by Emily Thomas and The Extinction Trials by S M Wilson.
By reading this wide selection of books, students got the opportunity to engage with a range of genres and writing styles and develop their debating skills through group discussions. After finishing each book, the students also completed an online review on the Awards website, helping to develop their critical writing skills and reading comprehension.
Out of the hundreds of students who took part in the initiative across the region, nine from John Smeaton Academy were selected to attend the Leeds Book Awards ceremony for their high-quality reviews. At the event, the students got the opportunity to meet the authors of the shortlisted books and take part in an interactive Q&A, where they gained a valuable insight into the creative process of each writer and developed their questioning skills.
Giving students the opportunity to take part in new and creative schemes like this, complementing the learning that is being done inside the classroom, is one of the many ways that schools across United Learning deliver what we call an Education with Character. By working together to complete the exciting literary challenge, the students at John Smeaton Academy developed their teamwork skills, learnt how to better express their thinking publicly and nurtured their love of reading.
Students have been eager to continue the Book Club even now that the Awards have concluded. Explaining why they enjoyed the initiative so much, Year 7 student Kyra said:
“It has encouraged me to read books I never thought I would enjoy.”
Claire Bailey, Head of School at John Smeaton Academy, said:
“It has been great to see our younger students really throw themselves into Book Club and engage so thoughtfully with the six shortlisted novels. Attending the Leeds Book Award ceremony at Civic Hall was a fantastic opportunity for students to hear from the authors themselves and learn more about the writing process and inspirations behind the novels. They’ve all thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the scheme and are already looking forward to participating again next year.”