It’s #readforempathy day today (June 11) in many libraries – encouraging people to read stories that will help understand others’ point of view.

The idea is: ‘read stories, build empathy, make a better world’.

Here are some ILC suggestions for some great reads that might open your mind to others’ experiences:

Boys Don’t Knit – T.S.Easton

One boy’s reaction to having been a criminal, and his rehabilitation.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher

A close look at a family surviving the death of a child, and the way a close-knit group of people can fall apart.

Am I Normal Yet – Holly Bourne

An account of life post-mental health crisis, with a girl trying to stay sane in new circumstances. And a dash of romance too.

Stargirl – Jerry Spinelli

Peer pressure, non-conformity and bullying are all explored in this bewitching account of American high school life. With added ukulele.

Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman
What if it were white people that history had suppressed and insulted, rather than black? Noughts and Crosses turns the world on its head, and makes you think.

The Bone Sparrow – Zana Fraillon
Take a look at life from the perspective of a refugee, born in an immigration detention centre. Understand forces that might have driven someone to leave their country and come to yours.

Literary Periodic Table

Keep an eye out for the new literary elements displayed around school. These are a great way to find a new read. Which element do you fancy reading from next? Romance, mystery, crime, dystopia, comedy or something else?

Which element will you start with?

Whatever you pick, flip open the card to find a recommendation and bring the card to the ILC to borrow the book inside!

Book spine poetry

Sometimes it’s worth getting out from behind our desks and looking at all the wonderful books we have in the ILC. Ms Whitfield challenged us to a book spine poetry competition… have a look at what we came up with:

Mrs Lown’s poetry
Miss Cooter’s poetry
Ms Whitfield’s poetry

Could you do better? Pop down to the ILC and make your own book spine poetry! Prizes available for the best ones.

500 words shortlisted entries

Congratulations to all those shortlisted in the BBC 500 words short story competition. There are some great stories, so if you fancy a quick read head over to the BBC website.

This is the third year that Mrs Lown has been a judge for the 500 words competition. So we thought we’d ask her a little bit about the judging process.

What made you decide to volunteer to be a 500 words judge?

It was a little bit of everything really. I love a great story, had some free time and think it’s really important that children have the opportunity to write stories and enter competitions. 500 words is great because there are so few rules, you can write about anything.

What makes a story stand out?

So many different things; it can be a great character, an unusual setting, a surprising plot twist. Anything that I don’t expect and makes me sit up and think.

How are stories judged?

There are five different criteria;

  • originality
  • plot
  • characterisation
  • language
  • enjoyment.

Each one is given a score out of 10. It’s quite a simple process, though sometimes it can be tricky. My favourite criteria is enjoyment, it encompasses the whole judging process. Anything that makes me want to read it again or gives me that spark of happiness, scores really high.

What’s your favourite part of being a 500 words judge?

It’s great to be able to see stories written by children and young people all over the country. Each one is like a little snapshot into someone else’s life. I really like how you can see what interests kids and the things that matter to them.

Do you have any advice for those wanting to enter next year?

Practise. Like anything, you don’t get good at it overnight. Plus, it can be really hard to get a whole story into just 500 words!

Write the stories you’d want to read, chances are if it’s something that interests you, someone else will want to read it too.

Get writing,

The ILC team.


You may have noticed that lately we’ve been plastering the school in posters featuring Swedish teen climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg and asking you all to help us make ecobricks.

But what is an ecobrick? And why do we want your rubbish to make them?

An ecobrick is a building block made entirely from unrecyclable plastic. It’s created by filling a plastic bottle with clean, dry plastic until it’s packed tightly and can be used as a building block.

That’s why we’re asking you for your food wrappers – chocolate or fruit bar wrappers, crisp packets, the clear plastic used to cover fruit and vegetables, plastic bags for bread, and so on. Basically anything that is single use plastic that you’d normally throw away can be put into an ecobrick and become something useful rather than going into landfill or – worse – the ocean.

And yes, it may sound a bit gross to keep rubbish that you’d normally throw away. But if we’re going to help the planet we all need to do our bit, and this is really easy. And your hands are perfectly washable.

What are we going to use them for? Ecobricks can be used in building projects, as if the bottle is packed hard enough it becomes rigid and strong, and is also naturally insulating. We can send the St Laurence School ecobricks to developing countries to make furniture or buildings, or if anyone has a great idea for something we could construct at school from them we’d love to hear it.

So please, do your bit to help the planet at school and bring us your food wrappers and plastic bottles to the ILC so we can work on this project together.

The healthy vending machine

According to the Guardian, a new vending machine has been installed in Canary Wharf, allowing workers to pick a one, three or five minute story. With stories from Anthony Horowitz, Lewis Carroll, Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens, there’s something for everyone and best of all it’s free.

Short Édition story machines will soon appear at Canary Wharf.
Short stories at the touch of a button

To find out more check out the Guardian website.

What do you think? Is this a vending machine worth having? Would you want one at school? Which authors would you pick to feature?

The Book Thief – A student review

‘The Book Thief’, written by Markus Zusak, offers an alternative story of Germany during the Second World War, and presents how conflict can cause a downfall of one’s country.  The words within the novel are powerful and heart-warming, offering both hope as well as the survival of hardship under the Third Reich. This moving novel creates sympathy of the survivor’s stories as well as a deeper understanding of mankind and the harsh cruelty possibe other human beings.  As mentioned by ‘Scotsman’s report, “Zusak’s writing is hugely imaginative” and creative, as the story is narrated by death, or perhaps a higher being, or God. This is presented in the quote “I could introduce myself properly, but it’s not really necessary … I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms”. Zusak’s creative writing infuses religion through even the darkest of times in history, perhaps Zusak is asking his readers to consider their own beliefs and how they are affected.

Although Liesel is known as the “book thief”, she was inspired by the words within the stories and wanted to further her education, does that still make her a book thief or someone who is courageous, who gathers inspiration and transforms it into her daily life. Furthermore can we ultimately call ourselves “book thieves”? As the author’s create words that inspire our understanding of the world we live in and further our development of finding love through friendship and family, the fulfilment of grace and pursue loyalty towards others.

I would recommend this book to those in year 9/10 and above as Zusak’s imaginative language can pull on anybody’s heartstrings, also be prepared to have tissues.