Bethlem teacher Paul Harris writes about his experiences being a judge at EmpathyLab UK.
On Wednesday 27th November I met with other EmpathyLab UK judges, chaired by the brilliant Miranda McKearney OBE, to pitch my favourite reads from 200 submissions. After some of the best book chat imaginable with people who really know their books and fuelled by tea, coffee, biscuits and fruit, we managed to agree upon a list of 50 fantastic titles to share with readers from 5 to 16. Only I can’t tell you what they are as my lips are sealed until the reveal on the 16th January 2020.
This is my second year as a judge and the whole experience has provided fantastic opportunities to share some of the best books written in the last few years. We look for a range of titles and genres that are the highest quality writing with empathy values at their core. It is a lot of reading but as teacher and a reader I get so much from the process. I get to meet and talk to authors, teachers, publishers, librarians, reviewers and journalists. I have access to copies of great new books by contemporary authors that have refreshed my own reading and made me think again about the way we share books and develop reading habits for the young people in our classrooms. We are always looking for ways to expand and develop a living reading culture in our school. Good book knowledge is crucial. Reading for pleasure and reading for empathy come with ever growing bodies of research that inform and confirm what many of educators have known for years: reading make us better people. Confident, mature readers do better in their exams too.
At our school we first celebrated Empathy day in 2018 and again this year; Empathy Day for 2020 is June 9th. Last year’s Empathy Day topped the twitter hashtags. I think we are all looking for a little more empathy in the world.
I’m always happy to talk books with our young people, their families and colleagues and I’m happy to say I’ve been asked back to judge next years submissions. If you’re after a recommendation for something new to read or to share as gift then take a look at the Empathy List for 2019 on their website or come and take a look at our reading café in my classroom. We’ll post up the list for 2020 in the new year. Watch this space.