Last Monday I had the privilege of being one of five judges at the Abingdon Schools Carnegie Forum. The forum is now in its twelfth year and has come about thanks to brilliant efforts from school librarians and teachers with the aim of fostering a shared enjoyment of reading.
Around 100 pupils from years seven and eight across six local schools have shadowed the CILIP Carnegie Medal since March. They aimed to read and review as many of the eight shortlisted Carnegie Medal books as they could before the winner was announced.
The children assessed the books using the same criteria used by the Carnegie judges, discussed each book and wrote reviews. As part of the forum the students attended a Carnegie Tea to launch the scheme, a Carnegie Quiz, and finally they came together to create group presentations about their favourite book last Monday, on the day the Carnegie winner was announced.
The children spent the morning planning and practising three-minute presentation about their favourite book, guided by PGCE English Students from the Department of Education at Oxford University who had volunteered to facilitate the groups. Meanwhile the judges spent an intense morning, heavily incentivised by tea and biscuits, deciding on our favourite book review for each shortlisted title. Competition was tough – we even had to create some new prizes, including ‘best hatchet job’, in order to give fair rewards.
We judged the best group presentation in the afternoon. With approaches ranging from news reporter-style interviews with characters, dramatic re-enactments of key scenes, and chaired debates about moral questions raised by the story, the presentations were fantastic. I was so impressed by the students’ mature consideration of the books and by the whole event’s collaborative and thoughtful atmosphere.
At the end of the day the children voted for the book they thought should win the Carnegie. This year’s judges would be pleased to learn that Abingdon schools overwhelmingly voted for Salt to the Sea as their favourite too.