‘Good Reads’, our regular review slot for young readers, is so popular that we have a waiting list of schools whose pupils are keen to have their reviews featured. Over the last few years you have let us know about library displays of titles reviewed in ‘Good Reads’ and the publication of recommended lists which have been inspired by the column: ‘Our children love to read books that have been recommended by other children.’ One mother wrote to say that, after having a review published in ‘Good Reads’, her bookish son, victim of a laddish school culture, no longer felt a love of books and reading to be unmasculine.
But apart from generating enthusiasm for reading, how useful are such reviews to our, in the main, adult readership? Young readers inevitably do not have the breadth of reading experience that we expect from our adult reviewers and the comparative judgements made must be seen in that context. A ‘Good Reads’ reviewer once awarded Junk 10/10. Mansfield Park has also been awarded 10/10 and fair enough. But apart from informing us about the nature of young readers’ engagement with text, one of the things that we at BfK find tremendously interesting about our young readers’ reviews is the evidence they provide about which books children are actually reading. ‘Good Reads’ tells us that recently published titles are being made available to young readers in their schools and libraries and that there is a lively and informed constituency out there.
No doubt the innovative shadowing schemes attached to such national children’s book awards as the Smarties and the Carnegie and Greenaway must take some of the credit for this. BfK would also like to point to the proliferation in the last few years of regional children’s book awards – Angus Book Award, Portsmouth Book Award, Lancashire Children’s Book of the Year, Wirral Paperback of the Year, North East Book Award, Sheffield Children’s Book Award, South Lanarkshire Book Award, Stockport Schools Book Award (apologies to any I have missed!) – all of which involve young readers in the judging process. This is a tremendous contribution to making young people into keen and knowledgeable readers who are included in literary debate.
In this issue of BfK you will see that, following feedback from our readers after the introduction of our 14+ category in the Reviews section, we have now amalgamated our 10-12 and 12+ categories.