BookFest is our in-house book festival run as a collaboration between the Senior School Library and the English Department, with staff from across the whole School getting involved. It was created as a way of celebrating the power and joy of reading and all of its associated benefits.
Reading for pleasure does not just benefit academic aims, but has been shown to improve mental health and wellbeing, critical thinking, creativity, resilience and can help develop empathy. It is part of our Reading Schools journey this year, where we are building a culture of reading throughout our School for our whole community.
Hear from School Librarian Dr Graeme Fairweather on exactly what happened across BookFest…
BookFest was launched to pupils with a dedicated assembly focused on reading where the Rector spoke passionately about the power of reading and School Librarian Dr Fairweather spoke about meeting his author hero Katherine Rundell, reading from her book Why You Should Read Children's Books Even Though You Are So Old and Wise.
Staff got into the BookFest spirit with a 'Secret Santa' style book gifting, with many gifting copies of their favourites reads for colleagues to discover and enjoy.
On Tuesday we were joined by a visitor from the Reading Schools team at Scottish Book Trust who popped in to see our BookFest activities, talk with our Reading Leadership staff group about our journey towards becoming a Gold Reading School, and to visit and share images from our School Library for National Libraries Week. They also attended our author talks for the day and visited our new Dungeons and Dragons after school club.
“This is the power of libraries and how they changed my life.” Brian Conaghan
Brian Conaghan spoke to Senior 2 about his personal journey from troubles at school to award winning author. Brian revealed that his struggles and behaviour problems at school stemmed from not being able to read, and that the power of libraries helped ignite his path to redemption, leading him to university, a career in teaching and then to becoming a successful author. He also spoke about how personal experiences have influenced his books and why they cover topics such as anger, bullying, depression, gangs, neurodivergence and Tourette Syndrome.
Brian sat down with some HSOG pupils to be interviewed for an upcoming EmpathyLab video which will be available to all UK schools as part of Empathy Action Month, in November. Pupils received advanced copies of Brian’s books from his publishers and were able to quiz him about his motivations behind writing both Swimming on the Moon and Treacle Town.
Our Senior 5 pupils were lucky enough to be the first people in the country to hear Brian talk about his new book Treacle Town. Pupils and staff were able to get advanced copies of his book, which Brian was kind enough to sign. The talk was inspiring, with Brian talking about the personal events that inspired him to centre his novel around gang violence, sectarian vendettas and the struggles unique to growing up stuck in "Treacle Towns”. He also read from his book, using an anti-racism poem to illustrate and celebrate the creativity in such communities.
“I think the thing that gave me a route out was that my mum read to me when I was young.” Graeme Armstrong
It’s hard to put into words just how special this event with Graeme Armstrong was, his story touched every Sixth Year pupil in the room. Starting with a reading from his best-selling novel The Young Team, the Granta listed Best Novelist, then gave a passionate and emotional talk about his life growing up in Scottish gangs and his doctoral research on the topic. He spoke of his experiences and knowledge of addiction and the destructive nature of classless crime, drugs and alcohol. We were extremely grateful to Graeme for taking the time to visit us, as with his three-part BBC documentary “Street Gangs” being released the very next day, we know it was an incredibly busy time for him.
Senior 1 pupils were joined by graphic novelist and political cartoonist Neil Slorance for drawing workshops. Neil had pupils creating their own characters which they then placed in their very own comic strips. A brilliant session, with some excellent creativity on show.
Neil also visited our newly formed Comic Book Club over lunchtime to chat about his career, answer questions, donate some of his books, and even taught us all how to draw his pet tortoise (and viral YouTube sensation) Herman!
On Wednesday lunchtime, pupils and staff got together to put their book knowledge to the test with our annual Big Book Quiz! It was great to see so many people attend and to see Transitus pupils teaming up with their S6 buddies. Our winning team were delighted to take home National Book Tokens!
We held an assembly to celebrate National Poetry Day where Mrs Baynham read poetry from visiting author Nadine Aisha Jassat and S1 pupils performed poems that they had created in class inspired by former pupil (and the first Makar of Scotland) Edwin Morgan.
Even the Junior School got involved with BookFest, with J6 visiting the Senior School for an afternoon of Book-themed fun, including a special quiz made for them by a number of Senior School pupils. They then joined Transitus in the Drama Studio for an action packed and interactive author talk with Nadine Aisha Jassat. Nadine spoke about her new book The Stories Grandma Forgot (and How I Found Them), and had excited pupils up at the front helping write poems and stories of their own.
Pupils and staff spent the week bringing in used books to School for our Book Exchange, swapping them for an exchange token that could be used at Friday lunchtime to take a different book home. Over 200 books were exchanged on the day with hundreds more to be donated to the local community.
BookFest culminated with a book-themed Scavenger Hunt around the School with our Books and Biscuits Club in particular determined to hunt down the relevant locations and members of staff to get all the answers. The winners took home book tokens, congratulations to: Grace (S1), Elizabeth (S1) and Niamh (Transitus).