Not Reading is Not An Option: Graeme High School's Big Book Bash

Mark Twain wrote: 'The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.’  And so, in an effort to celebrate and promote the value of reading, Graeme High School held a week long Big Book Bash.

This didn’t involve students battling each other with copies of War and Peace, nor did it involve dropping dictionaries from a great height on unsuspecting staff.

No, this didn’t involve students battling each other with copies of War and Peace or other literary tomes, nor did it involve dropping dictionaries from a great height on unsuspecting staff. Instead it involved our school community carrying out an initiative created by Scottish Book Trust to celebrate Book Week Scotland.

We held our inaugural one last year with great success - the highlight for many being a flashmob in the dining hall at lunchtime where a large group of students choreographed their own tribute to reading, delighting their peers and teachers. The whole event was such a success that we held another bash this year with the literary climax being a visit by the extraordinary author of young adult fiction, Phil Earle.

Image Copyright Alan Peebles

At Graeme High School we don’t do things by halves and everyone got involved in our celebrations. Pupils got together to make an iMovie trailer to advertise the week with the tagline ‘not reading is not an option’.

Staff (including support staff) displayed ‘What I’m Reading’ posters on their classroom or office doors detailing their current reading material. This ranged from the likes of The Gruffalo which one teacher was reading with his two year old to the dark murder mysteries of our Bookaholic reprographic officer.

We had a ‘Shelfie’ quiz and pupils had to guess the identities of staff based only on a photograph of their bookshelves. S1 pupils made Reading Pledges where they promised to carry out some extra reading during the week such as sharing a book with a younger sibling or finishing their current book.

The pledges formed an impressive display in the library and allowed pupils an opportunity to complete part of our Graeme High Achievement Award which rewards commitment to charity, sports, arts and academia.

No doubt the climax of the week was when over 180 S2 pupils were hugely entertained by Phil Earle as he made a stop on the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour.

No doubt the climax of the week was when over 180 S2 pupils were hugely entertained by Phil Earle as he made a stop on the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour. He spoke of his own literary heroes such as Batman, Flat Stanley and Roy of the Rovers. His humorous and often very personal stories of being inspired by the ‘stories all around us’ kept the attention of even the most book-bored teenage boys in the audience and a great many waited behind to buy novels, have them autographed and to take ‘selfies’.

One girl told me later that the visit and meeting Phil had ‘just made my week’. Inspired ourselves by the pupils’ response to Phil’s gritty realism, the English department bought a set of Being Billy (each copy kindly signed by Phil) and are looking forward to unleashing it on S2 classes. 

But our Big Book Bash did not end there! Our senior Drama pupils got together with senior Dance Leaders and made a film ‘Don’t You Ever Interrupt Me While I’m Reading a Book!’ (now available on YouTube). This was a super pupil-led project and great fun was had by all involved in the acting, dancing, rapping, filming and editing.

Staff finished off the week with a Books, Buns and Banter coffee morning where we ate vast amounts of cake, talked about and swapped books. And, despite the fire alarm which chased us, cake and book in hand out onto a soggy sports field, it was a great end to a superb week.

 

Check out these fantastic resources for inspiration on how to make reading a part of everyday life in your school.

Phil Earle toured Falkirk, East Ayrshire and South Ayrshire this November with the Scottish Friendly Children's Book Tour.

Gillian Maclennan

Gillian Maclennan is an English Teacher and Literacy Comissioner at Graeme High School, Falkirk.