Inspirational reading initiatives!

This academic year our Headmaster has highlighted three main areas he would like us to focus on – inspiration, independence and inclusivity. He is particularly keen for our students (and staff) to be inspired in everything they do and for us all to share books that have inspired us.

It’s exciting to see that reading has taken off in a big way already this term and is branching out beyond the confines of the library and the English Department. We have always encouraged students to read books to extend their academic subject knowledge and bought prize shortlisted books particularly in the field of popular science for Library stock. For the past few years we have promoted the Royal Society Book Prize  and bought multiple copies so students can read and discuss them together.

Royal Society Book Prize Shortlist 2017 – Student shadowing.

This year Biology teacher Nik Light has taken this idea from a library Tweet and run with it. Our 6th Form Science Society are ‘shadowing’ the Royal Society Prize – each reading a shortlisted book (or as much as possible of it in the short time available!) before they meet to deliver their verdicts and debates the merits of each book just before the winner is announced by Brian Cox on 19th Sept. We’ll have the live Twitter feed up in the library as I don’t think the ceremony is broadcast live. One of the students has already declared that their book (described only as ISBN 978-1784700171 as we don’t want to pre-empt the judging!) is the best Science book they have ever read.

Y9 Chemistry reading – ‘The Disappearing Spoon’ by Sam Kean

Dr Caroline Evans, Head of the Chemistry Department is reinforcing the drive to encourage our students to read more and read widely, particularly to extend their subject knowledge in an interesting and entertaining way. She explains:

The Chemistry Department has decided to incorporate more literacy into our lessons for the third form. We have a class set of ‘The Disappearing Spoon’ by Sam Kean which students will be reading and discussing once a fortnight. It is a fantastic book with lots of interesting tales about the Periodic Table.  The plan is for students to be able to use their newly acquired knowledge in the lessons about the Periodic Table. 

She adds:

As a student I didn’t warm to fiction and I didn’t realise that popular science existed. I’m hopeful that for some of our keen scientists that we can combine their love of science with a love for reading. If you’d like to read the book alongside your tutee then there are copies available in the library. Unleash your inner-geek!

We’ve also been holding book discussions with our new Y9s about ‘Z for Zachariah’ the book they were given to read over the summer holiday. In conjunction with Rob Murphy, head of Y9, the students have been thinking about their 8 ‘Desert Island Books’. This has been easier for some than others – Robert Muchamore’s ‘Cherub’ series seems to be a universal favourite and the book ‘Lion’ has been popular this summer with the film tie-in. Based on the Desert Island Discs format with a twist, the students were allowed to take one luxury and one track of music to the island. We’re hoping that this work will lead to some interesting book discussions with tutors. Emphasis was placed on the students saying why they liked a book and the impact it had on them.

Here’s a charming and impressive example by a Y9 boy.

Desert Island books

Robert Harris The Cicero Trilogy: Imperium, Lustrum and The Dictator

These three books are probably the greatest examples of Harris’s writing. I loved the attention to history and the sheer drama which he made out of Cicero’s Lawyer/Politician life. And they were my first meaty and proper books, all of the books in the trilogy are about 400 pages long.

Robert Muchamore: Brigands M.C. (Cherub series)

Cherub was what got me into reading. They’re everything, spy novels, teenage romances, gritty missions, epic training sequences. Literally everything I wanted from a children’s book. Since the series is huge I can’t choose them all. If I have to choose, the penultimate book in the first series (the James series) is the best.

PG Wodehouse: Carry on Jeeves

PG Wodehouse is the second funniest author I have ever read, and of his many eccentric characters Jeeves is by far my favourite. Jeeves and Bertie Wooster make a ludicrously funny pair. And this is the kind of book which I could spend hours just finding something new in its pages.

Jung Chang: Wild Swans

Ever since reading this I wanted to know more about Mao’s regime and how its still affecting  China today, I know so little about such an interesting country and period, and I would love to explore the area further.

The Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy (the first one) by Douglas Adams

This is the funniest, most plot hole ridden “book” of all time. I absolutely adored it when I first read it and keep loving it today. It’s just so quirky and different in every way.

Captain Bluebear

Read this. It’s the most charming and creative book ever. Its like a hyperactive imagination went wild but was then tamed by clear concise writing and beautiful turns of phrase.

Music: Macklemore, Drug Dealer

It’s such a soulful song and makes me really focused

Luxury: Spaghetti Bolognese

On the island there would probably be food, it’s just Spaghetti Bolognese would be better than anything I could find.

Jane Austen 200

And finally – our enthusiastic English Department and Literary Society is holding a celebration of the bicentenary of Jane Austen next week with Regency High Tea, music and readings from her novels.

 

Are you incurably curious?

‘The free destination for the incurably curious’ and a must for students keen to study Medicine

After an interesting day visiting Westminster School Library and talking to other school librarians I made a quick dash to the Wellcome Collection before it closed at 6pm one Saturday last month. What a jaw-dropping place! You don’t have to be a budding medic to find this collection fascinating – it’s equally appealing to anyone interested in art or science too. The whole centre is free and you can wander in, take a leaflet to lead you on a trail, pick up an audio guide to dip into a range of exhibits which pique your interest or sit down and become absorbed in a book. Many of the galleries blend art and creativity in the exhibits alongside the medical information.

chromosomes (2)

Sock chromosomes!

I found myself engrossed in viewing a collection of tools for the amputation of limbs over the ages whilst listening to surgeons’ accounts of operations now and in the past on an audio guide.

experiences sign

Choose your experience and follow the trail. From ‘pulse racing’ to ‘toe curling’

 

I love the ethos of the Wellcome Collection. This sign in the Reading Room says it all.

wellcome sign

 

The reading room is a delight. As their website describes it:

‘Come and experience the new incarnation of our Reading Room. An innovative hybrid of gallery, library and events space, the Reading Room is designed to encourage you to indulge your curiosity and explore more than ever before.

With over a thousand books and 100 objects – including contemporary sculptures, paintings, medical artefacts and manuscripts – the room is an open invitation to dig a little deeper into what it means to be human.

Settle down with a book from our shelves on a comfy sofa, contemplate life quietly or strike up a conversation with a stranger. You will find plenty here to inspire you. Drop by to spark connections and new ideas.

Located on level 2, the Reading Room is open during gallery opening hours. Just come whenever you have a moment – you may even chance upon one of our pop-up Reading Room events.’

So much to learn and amaze and I didn’t even have time to explore the shop!

whole human genome

Browse the whole Human Genome!

 

Back to our school library:

Don’t forget we have a collection of physical books on medicine in the Library as well as a growing collection of e-books. Here’s the current medicine reading list of printed books in the Library.

medical books

Lower 6th: Why not try the 6 Book Reading Challenge during the long summer break? Fuel your curiosity and invigorate your intellect for your final school year. You could try reading the same book as a group of your friends and discussing your responses when you come back in September. More excellent science books on the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science website and the Wellcome Book Prize too.

The Wellcome Library is free to join and you can access their wide-range of resources and read fascinating blogs.

As an interested layperson here is my suggested recipe for a medical summer:

  • A trip: The Wellcome Collection
  • Read 6 books: From the Library or our e-book collection or public libraries, or bookshops or anywhere!
  • A lecture: Listen to The Reith Lectures by Dr Atul Gawande on The Future of Medicine (on Radio 4 iplayer)  ‘Surgeon and writer Atul Gawande explores the nature of fallibility and suggests that preventing avoidable mistakes is a key challenge for the future of medicine.’ (Radio 4 iplayer)

4 lectures on:

  • Why do doctors fail?
  • The century of the system
  • The problem of hubris
  • The idea of wellbeing
 We welcome your suggestions and recommendations for Library stock.

Royal Society of Chemistry – New free Chemistry online resource

Here’s a great new resource for Chemistry teachers and learners.

“Hundreds of open-access resources including experiments, worksheets, videos, simulation and games for all levels of learners. The content relates  to everyday life and real-world  challenges such as pharmaceuticals, lifestyle, energy, and more.

The RSC’s Visual Elements Periodic Table features  history and alchemy pages, and podcasts, videos and data trends across the periodic table.”

Teachers can share ideas through “Talk Chemistry” section. (JCS Online Resources)

Access Learn Chemistry via the e-library and let us know what you think!