Throughout June and July, MCYS academics Alex Wheatle and Chloé Germaine Buckley have been dropping into secondary schools in Greater Manchester to chat with young people about books.
One of the aims of this project was to promote diverse books in school and engage readers with fiction that challenges the legacy of colonialism in modern-day Britain and represents a diversity of childhood experiences. Alex has spoken passionately about the potential of YA fiction to celebrate diversity without ghettozing Black writers and Black characters. Elsewhere, Chloé has championed to role of YA Gothic fiction in interrogating Britain’s colonial history. Beyond a desire to introduce readers to diverse books, the MCYS book club project was also keen to give young people a space beyond the classroom to read and discuss the books they love.
We were fortunate to find an excellent project partner in the Schools Library Association of Manchester, whose members were enthusiastic in helping us deliver book clubs in a range of very different schools across the region. Alex and Chloé were both impressed and awed by the passion of the young people who took part and shared their views—not only on the books, but on a whole range of social topics and issues. These young people are actively seeking stories that don’t shy away from the horrors lurking in our history, or from the difficulties of the present-day such as social inequality and violence against girls and women. It was also great to receive recommendations from young people and we came away from each session with a big to-read list!
We’re really pleased that this MCYS project is now being supported by the Siobhan O’Dowd trust, which has awarded MCYS money to run a bigger Book Club project from September 2019. The Siobhan Dowd Trust works to give young people the opportunity to read and enjoy literature, particularly supporting disadvantaged young readers. For our extended project, we will be expanding the choice of books to over 15 contemporary novels – incorporating some of the great recommendations we’ve had from young people over the past two months. We are hoping that the next round of book clubs will allow young people the opportunity to discuss a diverse range of issues, including representation in children’s and YA books, feminism, how young people make themselves heard, the environment and climate change—to name a few.
If you are a librarian or a teacher in the Manchester, Bolton, or Burnley area and you are interested in hosting a YA Book club session in your school between September and December, please get in touch with Chloé for more details!