Wirral Grammar School selected as 2020 Booker Prize reading group

Wirral Grammar School for Girls (WGSG) was this year selected by the Reading Agency as one of only 12 groups nationally to shadow the Booker Prize shortlist.

Laura Ferguson, the WGSG librarian, applied to the Reading Agency and was successful in being selected, “I was excited when I was told we would be one of just 12 groups selected across the UK, and that this year was the first time they had allowed a school group.”, she said.

The shadowing of the Booker Prize involved the group reading the shortlisted novel nominated by the Reading Agency; Real Life by Brandon Taylor. The group would then discuss, debate, and explore the book’s themes and narrative and generally talk about their varied opinions on the text.

Brandon Taylor’s book didn’t win the coveted prize; Douglas Stuart was last night announced as the winner of the 2020 Booker Prize. His debut novel, ‘Shuggie Bain’, is about a boy in 1980s Glasgow trying to support his mother as she struggles with addiction and poverty.

Head of 6th Form, Laura Frowe, was, “delighted that our students have been able to enjoy working together and meeting for fun, developing their wider interests in such a worthwhile way. Reading for Pleasure is such an important outlet to encourage young people’s mental health and well-being and in these strange pandemic times it is wonderful to hear their discussion, debate and laughter.”

I know just how excited the students were that their first group read was a 2020 Booker Prize shortlisted author. Shadowing such an important literary prize, through The Reading Agency, allowed the students to read and discuss great literature, but also to build friendships and develop a lifelong love of reading.

Elaine Cogan, WGSG Head Teacher.

Laura Ferguson told us that throughout lockdown she was aware just how much she looked forward to meeting up online with the various book groups that she is a member of.

“When I came back to school in September I knew that I wanted all of our students to experience this and be able to step away, in a socially distanced way, from their studies and the pandemic for just a short time each week.

“I had been following the 2020 Booker Prize longlist and when I saw that The Reading Agency were offering the opportunity to shadow the prize and champion a shortlisted author, I knew that this was what I wanted to do with our Year 12s.”, she said.

“We’re so grateful and proud for the opportunity to take part in such a prestigious and well-known award, especially when Barack Obama talked about the same books and issues we had been discussing. As 6th formers we hope to inspire younger students to take part in reading for pleasure and forming groups like ours. We have loved our Booker Group and plan on continuing the staff/student book club for the foreseeable future.” – Collective statement made by the students of the group.

In my role as 6th form mentor, I feel the book club has given students the chance to have their voice heard as well as form new friendship groups and see a different side to their staff.

Dianne Johnson, 6th form Mentor
The 2020 Booker Prize winner, Douglas Stuart. Photo: Martyn Pickersgill/Booker.

It is testament to the inquiring spirit of our Year 12s, new to their 6th form experience that they are always striving to develop themselves beyond their A Levels. The fact that they want to continue the group at such a high level shows what a remarkable group of young people they are.

Laura Frowe, Head of 6th Form.

Booker Prize – Novelist shortlist

  • Diane Cook – The New Wilderness
  • Tsitsi Dangarembga – This Mournable Body
  • Avni Doshi – Burnt Sugar
  • Maaza Mengiste -The Shadow King
  • Douglas Stuart – Shuggie Bain
  • Brandon Taylor – Real Life

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