Guest Blog: Paddy Johnston of the Avid Readers Book Club


By Paddy Johnston, Group Communications Manager, Hachette

Wednesday 13 September 2017.

The Avid Readers Book Club is a reading scheme for primary schools. It was set up by a sub-group of our Changing the Story Diversity and Inclusion group, as part of our broader Changing the Story programme to promote diversity and inclusion at Hachette and in the wider publishing industry. We partnered with John Scurr Primary School in Whitechapel for the scheme’s pilot, introduced to us by the Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership, as it’s a school in the borough of Tower Hamlets with limited resources and many pupils from lower-income backgrounds, for whom a book club is extremely valuable.

One of the aims of our outreach programme is to shape the readers and publishers of the future, beginning with inspiring a love of reading and an education about the role of publishing at an early age. We worked closely with the school’s staff to design a book club that would do this, and their input persuaded us to focus the club on children who were already showing a major interest in reading but had limited opportunities and resources to develop their interest. The school carefully chose twelve students from year six, and we gave the teachers a longlist of books carefully chosen by Hachette Children’s Group for their engaging content and challenging themes, from which they chose seven books including the award-winning The Bone Sparrow and the young readers’ edition of I Am Malala.

Each book was discussed over four weeks. We encouraged the children to pay attention to the books’ themes and to understand the role of the publisher whilst also developing their critical faculties and giving them opportunities to develop their reading and to enjoy challenging new books.

Each week two volunteers from Hachette would attend, asking the children questions and challenging them to respond to the book’s content. Our initial worry was that we’d be faced with dead silence, but from the first session the children were incredibly engaged with it, and talked endlessly and with great passion about the books, which made every session a pleasure for the volunteers. And the benefits to the children were highly evident too – the teachers reported that all of the children in the club quickly became more confident in class, and when I met with them for the final session they all told me how they’d already worked out where the libraries were in the secondary schools they would start in September and how to order books into them, as well as directly telling me how much they loved the club, which was really amazing.

We’ll be running the scheme at John Scurr again in the new academic year, and intend to expand to other schools in the coming months too as our outreach programme grows.

Is your company interested in starting a Book Club in a Tower Hamlets primary school or offering your employees an opportunity to become a Reading Partner, buddying up with a Tower Hamlets young person to boost their literacy and aspirations?  Contact to find out more.