Engaging pupils through the Scottish Teenage Book Prize

Scottish Teenage Book Prize shortlist

For secondary schools taking part in the Reading Challenge, getting involved in The Scottish Teenage Book Prize is a brilliant way to develop your reading culture and engage your pupils.

As well as their enthusiastic participation in the Reading Challenge, Elgin Academy in Moray take part in the prize each year. In this article, their school librarian and a member of the English department explore how they have collaborated on the Scottish Teenage Book Prize project to encourage a love of reading in their young people. This project was run with an S3 class, but it is suitable for pupils from S1 and above.

Librarian perspective

This collaborative Library and English Department project based on the Scottish Teenage Book Prize (STBP) stretches a class and allows pupils to demonstrate the skills they have been developing in S1-S3.

Now an established project with S3, between October and March, it includes reading, discussion and activities in the library and a range of tasks in the classroom.

Having enough copies of the books for everyone in the class is the priority. We sourced 10 copies of each of the 3 titles through our Parent Council and subsequently were able to take the project forward.

Responding to the shortlist

Activities this year included creative writing, book reviews, graphic art and a variety of discussions and debates. Pupils were able to meet and interview one of the shortlisted authors, participate in competitions and vote for their favourite author in an exciting ‘election day’ session. The class watched the award ceremony from Scottish Book Trust and a broadcast from the winning author, Tanya Landman.

The culmination of the project was creating book trailers and presentations based on each of the three shortlisted books. In groups, the S3 pupils ‘took over’ the S1 book talk programme in March and shared their learning with the younger pupils.

This is a fantastic project to be involved with. It offers great opportunities for partnership working, helps to develop a whole-school reading culture and it gives pupils, in their final BGE year, real personalisation and choice in their learning. It is inspiring, engages pupils and is great fun for all.

Shelagh Toonen, Elgin Academy Librarian


Teacher perspective

Taking part in the programme allowed pupils to engage with a wide range of Experiences and Outcomes as part of their Broad General Education in Curriculum for Excellence. These included: “Reading a wide variety of texts” (LIT 4-1a); “Giving reasons, with evidence, for my personal response” (LIT 4-11a); “Discussing and evaluating theme, structure, characterisation, setting” (LIT 4-19a).

Encouraging reading for pleasure

It would, however, be a mistake to view the STBP activities as merely a way of matching classroom activities to a set of sterile curriculum guidelines. The real value to the pupils lay in the opportunity the programme gave to engage with literature as literature and not merely as another task to do in class. The reading of texts they would not normally choose for themselves, including the graphic novel, enriched the pupils’ school experience in many ways.

This was evident in the opportunities the programme gave for pupils to work together in pairs and larger groups; to make films of the books; to meet one of the authors; to write and talk about the books and to create their own graphic novels.

Exploring themes

Pupils also considered a number of challenging issues present in the books such as child abuse, racism, and the representation of women. That they were able to do so in a thoughtful and perceptive manner further illustrated the benefits offered by programme. The Scottish Teenage Book Prize work took place in parallel with other activities in the English class such as studying Of Mice and Men and An Inspector Calls. In this way the Scottish Teenage Book Prize programme complemented and enhanced the ongoing work of the class rather than replacing it.

In summary, participation in the Scottish Teenage Book Prize programme provided a rich and varied set of experiences for these S3 pupils and provided an excellent preparation for work at National 5 next year. Mrs Toonen is to be commended for her energy and commitment to the promotion of reading and literature in the school and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of being involved this year.

Iain Valentine, Elgin Academy English Teacher


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