Reading Challenge 2023- 2024
October 2, 2023

Reading Challenge 2023- 2024

Last year, we introduced a reading initiative in support of our English curriculum. Once per term, students from Year 7-10 were provided with an extra-curricular reading book to take home and read at their own pace. These novels were not assessed or studied in class, as the idea was that students could then engage with literature more positively, to enjoy these books, without fear of tests, exams, or a strict time-limit. In all cases, these books were chosen because they provided an interesting counterpoint to the focus in English lessons. 

Given that reading for pleasure is on the decline in the UK, the intention was that all boys at St. James would then have read at least 12 excellent books before embarking on the much more demanding English Literature GCSE. 

However, the mistake last year was that this was not made compulsory; the feedback here from parents has been that able students quickly engaged with these texts and returned them, whilst the books of less-keen readers languished for a term or two at the bottom of a bag or locker before being handed back in. 

This year, the reading challenge is compulsory; it means that each term, students will be bringing home a new title to read outside of lessons, and with a challenge set on Firefly to complete for each book to prove that it has been read (and hopefully enjoyed). We have tried to design these challenges to be Google and Chat GPT-proof, though if parents could engage with their sons about their reading progress, it would be much appreciated. 

By the end of this week, all Year 7-10 students should have a copy of the respective titles below and a term in which to complete their reading. I have provided a small blurb to explain the curriculum link for each, and the English department would welcome parental feedback here as to how their sons are progressing. In cases where a student has read or studied one of these texts, they will be provided with a different book. 

Year 7 – ‘Wonder’ – R.J. Palacio: Students are currently studying ‘Identity Poetry’ including exploring their own cultural identity, and writing poetry about themselves, their families and their experiences. 

Year 8 – ‘Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry’ – Mildred D. Taylor: Students are studying Steinbeck’s classic ‘Of Mice and Men’. This seeks to provide a narrative that explores similar themes of race and prejudice but from a different narrative perspective. 

Year 9 – ‘After Tomorrow’ – Gillian Cross: Students are studying political rhetoric in HT1, then dystopian fiction in HT2. This novel explores a dystopian world, with roots in societal issues and financial collapse. 

Year 10 – ‘Catcher in the Rye’ – J.D. Salinger: Students are currently studying Macbeth. We will be discussing narrative perspectives, character arcs, and the themes of ambition as well as appearance and reality. 

Mr Gould – Head of English

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