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Join the #ReadWokeUK Reading Challenge!

Lucas Maxwell

Contributor

Lucas Maxwell has been working with youth in libraries for over fifteen years. Originally from Nova Scotia, Canada, he's been a high school librarian in London, UK for over a decade. In 2017 he won the UK's School Librarian of the Year award and in 2022 he was named the UK Literacy Association's Reading For Pleasure Teacher Champion. He loves Dungeons & Dragons and is the author of Let's Roll: A Guide for Setting up Tabletop Roleplaying Games in Your School or Public Library. You can follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

I was recently inspired by an article in School Library Journal by Librarian Cicely Lewis on how she developed a “Read Woke” Reading Challenge in her high school.

Cicely’s goal was to highlight books that challenged social norms or have a protagonist from an oppressed group.

I decided to steal this idea and focus it on authors from the UK. This stemmed from a debate we had in the Library with students where they determined that they don’t really feel represented in the YA literature that they read.

#OHYABOOKCLUB

 

In addition, I’ve launched a Twitter-based book club called the #OHYABOOKCLUB where I’ve had readers from around the world vote for the next book to read on a monthly basis. Each time they voted for a book written by a UK author from a diverse background.

I also interviewed Muhammad Khan, author of the amazing I Am Thunder and heard how growing up in the UK, he rarely found books where he saw himself or people like him as the lead character or a character that was shed in a positive light at all.

Based on these experiences, and knowing that I serve a student population of 1,600 with hugely diverse backgrounds, I decided to launch the #ReadWokeUK Reading Challenge in the High School Library that I manage.

The idea is pretty simple, I’ve created a list of books that are written by UK authors and feature protagonists that are underrepresented or voiceless.

Any student that reads four of these books and gives me a review of each one will have a chance to win a stack of books from diverse authors and a £40 Waterstones gift card. I’m also going to have a big quiz near the end of the year with pizza and more pizza and of course prizes for the  top 3.

Read Woke UK

It’s not only students that will be taking part, I’m encouraging staff at the school to get involved. Personally, I want to challenge myself to read UKYA books that are written by diverse authors and speaking to a few teachers, I know they feel the same way.

Based on this, I think the #ReadWokeUK Challenge will not only introduce students to some amazing books, it will also hopefully open their eyes up to the experiences of different cultures, races and religions.