Carnegie Medal shortlist Book Blog

The CILIP Carnegie medal is awarded each year by children’s librarians to a book written in English for children and young people.  Past winners include well renowned authors including Arthur Ransome, C.S. Lewis, Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Noel Streatfield, Sally Gardner and Penelope Lively.  Check out this year’s shortlist, choose your favourite and see if you agree when the winner of the award is announced on the 19th June 2017.

Sputnik’s Guide to Life on Earth by Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Age 8 and above

Prez has come to live with the Blythe family as a foster child and although he seems cheerful he never speaks.  One day Sputnik arrives and the rest of the family think he is a dog.  Prez finds out that Sputnik is actually an alien who is writing a guide book to earth.  The guide book is called ‘Ten Things Worth Doing on Earth’ and Prez joins Sputnik on his journey to find the information for his book.


The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon         

Age 11 and above

Subhi has lived in a refugee camp all his life.  Jimmie arrives one day carrying her notebook (which she can’t read)  and they become friends.  Both characters use their imaginations and their love of stories to escape from the challenges and awful reality of their situation.


The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock  

Age 13 and above

The Alaska and its changing seasons form the background for this book in which we follow the stories of Ruth, Dora, Alcye and Hank.  The convincingly created characters find that they have more in common than they expected in this coming of age tale.


The Stars at Oktober Bend by Glenda Millard     

Age 12 and above

Simple and beautiful poems are how 15 year old Alice is able to communicate with the world since the assault which caused her brain injury.  Manny has been a child soldier and is alone in the world since losing his family.  When Alice and Manny meet they are able to help each other to begin to heal the wounds of their past and find the love of their future.


Beck by Mal Peet with Meg Rosoff         

Age 16 and above

A historical coming of age novel in which Beck enters a life of servitude having been abandoned by those he should have been able to trust.   A story in which the central character experiences cruel hardship and brutality as well as love and hope.  Resonating with the lives of so many people in the world today Beck is seeking a place where he can belong but encounters trials and prejudice on his journey.


Railhead by Philip Reeve             

Age 12 and above

Once again Philip Reeve has created a new world for the reader to explore.  A great network of sentient railways which allow travel across the universe could be under threat because of an item inadvertently stolen by Zen.  Many important people want to catch Zen, but is this because of what he has stolen or are there other reasons which will soon come to light?


Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Age 13 and above

Germany, January 1945 and people have heard tell that the Wilhelm Gustoff transport ship is waiting in Gdynia harbour to evacuate German citizens as the Red Army advances.  Sepetys takes the reader back in time to trek with a group of desperate young people who believe the ship will enable them to escape from their war torn homeland.


Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk    

Age 10 and above

Pennsylvania 1943 and Betty has just arrived in the small town of Wolf Hollow.  Annabelle has lived in the town all her life and is soon upset to find that the new arrival has a cruel and unpleasant nature.  When Betty disappears unexpectedly fingers point at Toby, a quiet character who has little to do with the other townsfolk.  Is Toby the true perpetrator or an easy target?

The Carnegie Medal will be awarded for the 60th time this year.  If none of this year’s titles spark your interest then why not look back over the list of previous winners, there are bound to be some titles which you will be keen to read!

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

Petition to Change KS2 Writing Test

Petition launched to change KS2 Writing Test

Dyslexia Action strongly believes in the need for changes to the current Key Stage 2 writing assessment with regard to how spelling is assessed and today urges parents and teachers to review and sign the petition put forward by Head Teacher Justin Kelly.

The move comes after concerns were raised at a recent All Party Parliamentary Group for Dyslexia and other Specific Learning Difficulties.

Mr Kelly, of Tadworth Primary School, Surrey, who attended the APPG, said:  “It is almost impossible for children with spelling difficulties to reach 'the expected standard' in writing. Two small concessions would make a big difference - removal of spelling from teacher assessment of writing and reporting on the outcomes of the spelling test, separate from grammar and punctuation.”

APPG Chair Sharon Hodgson MP is seeking reassurances from the Minister of State for School Standards, The Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, on behalf of members, that children with dyslexia will not be ‘unfairly disadvantaged’ because accuracy of spelling is a limiting factor when it comes to the overall judgement being made.

James Bowen, Director of NAHT Edge, a union for middle leaders, told the APPG, that the primary assessment, in terms of writing, was ‘not fit for purpose’ and ‘disadvantaged pupils with dyslexia’. He also called for the spelling criteria to be removed and the assessment process modified.



Mr Bowen explained that when it comes to the teacher assessed element, the new ‘secure-fit’ approach, introduced last year, means a pupil has to spell complex words accurately to be judged to be working at the ‘expected standard’ in writing, which he deems inappropriate for a child with dyslexia. The additional writing test is split into two sections: Paper 1 tests grammar, punctuation and vocabulary, but guidance states ‘correct spelling is also required for the award of the mark (available) for the majority of questions’. Spelling Paper 2 contains 20 words and carries a potential 29% of the overall mark for English.

Previously, a teacher was able to award the level that best suited the child’s work. This meant if there were spelling issues a child could still meet ‘the expected standard’ (then known as level 4) if their work matched the majority of the other criteria such as grammatical structure, writing for a specific purpose and conveying meaning.



Mr Bowen highlighted how head teachers are concerned that brilliant writers were at risk of being judged below the ‘expected standard’ of an 11 year old because of spelling alone and someone whose writing was relatively dull and unadventurous could score better overall. “It is incredibly demoralising for those children who nearly get to the bar but don’t get over it,” he added.

Dyslexia Action agrees spelling should be assessed separately so children can be spared from being told they are ‘not at the expected level’ as a writer because they can’t spell. It fears overall results may deteriorate as one in 10 children with dyslexia in this country may become discouraged from being creative and adventurous in their writing, including choice of vocabulary, in case they spell incorrectly.

Director of Education at Dyslexia Action Dr John Rack, who believes children with dyslexia are being unfairly disadvantaged and discriminated against by the Key Stage 2 writing test, said: “Even the greatest child writers may never be deemed to have reached the ‘expected level’ if they have spelling difficulties, and there is a risk that their motivation and self-esteem will suffer.”


Primary Assessment Inquiry

The Education Select Committee’s Primary Assessment Inquiry, has also heard evidence on this matter.




The zone by Morag Caunt                           

Age 11 and above

A collection of short stories focussing on modern teenage life, the challenges it presents and the support needed to navigate it.  Each story is very different but all of the characters have discovered ‘The zone’ and are getting support from it to both develop their artistic endeavours and as somewhere to go for advice.


 A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken and Jan Pienkowski                        

Age 5 and above

A delightful collection of short stories that are traditional and wholly untraditional at the same time.   Joan Aiken has crafted beautiful stories which are complimented by Jan Pienkowski’s stunning illustrations which use silhouettes on colourful backgrounds.  Definitely a good choice for bed time reading.


Magic Beans:  A handful of stories from the Storybag Retold by a range of famous authors

Age 7 and above

A selection of 14 familiar tales have been reimagined by some of the nation’s favourite children’s authors. As with all traditional tales these are stories to learn from.  Ask yourself if you would you give up everything for love like ‘The Little Mermaid’ or what you would do if you had to choose between golden treasure and friendship.


Lions and Unicorns by Michael Morpurgo 

Age 9 and above

A mixture  of Michael Morpurgo’s short stories and extracts from his novels have been put together to create this collection.   The stories are grouped in to themes including animals and war.  The selection will delight those who are already Morpurgo fans and would also serve as a good introduction to Morpurgo for a reader who hasn’t read his work before.


Give Peas a Chance by Morris Gleitzman 

Age 8 and above

Morris Gleitzman is one of those amazing authors who can make you smile at the same time as he presents something to you in a new light.  Serious issues become easier to discuss when raised through these amusing tales.  Certainly a good choice if you are looking for stories which will promote discussion.


Counting Stars by David Almond  

Age 11 and above

This collection of stories explores many aspects of David Almond’s life focussing on those events which have shaped him as a writer.  This delightful collection of stories of tragedy and happiness are suitable for those who are familiar with his work and for those who are meeting him for the first time through his short stories.


Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley        

Age 7 and above

A perfect book for readers who like ghosts, demons, blood and gore!  Edgar, the central character, makes regular visits to Uncle Montague’s house and hears tales linked to the strange objects he sees there.  A collection of spine-tingling stories, perfect for readers who enjoy being spooked.


Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan

Age 11 and above

Certainly a book which readers will want to return to and re-read time and time again.  Aliens who come to stay and magical rooms where you can experience the opposite season to the one outside your front door are encountered by average suburban folk.  The stories are enhanced by illustrations created in a range of different styles.


Haunted by Eleven well known children’s authors 

Age 12 and above

A collection of blood chilling short stories, some of which travel back in time whilst others bring present day ghosts to the reader’s attention.  Authors include Susan Cooper, Berlie Doherty and Philip Reeve. With authors like these in charge of the tale you know you are in safe hands.


Under the Weather by Tony Bradman 

Age 9 and above

Eight stories which focus on environmental changes around the world, viewing them through the eyes of children.  A superb collection of stories which encourages the reader to consider what they would do if they were faced with the same issues.  Definitely a good book choice for any eco-warrior readers.


Hopefully you will find a short story collection in this list that you would like to read.  Short stories can be written by anyone.  If you have been inspired to write your own short story we would love to hear from you.  Remember stories don’t have to be written with pencil and paper.  You could make a video of yourself telling your story or dictate it using speech to text technology!

The Book Blog is written by Alison Keeley who looks after Dyslexia Action’s Learning Centres in the South of England. Prior to joining Dyslexia Action Alison worked as a Deputy Head and for Booktrust. She has always read a wide range of children’s literature even though she technically stopped being a child some time ago. If you have any questions or suggestions about subjects for future blogs please do leave a comment below.

Reading hints and tips leaflet for young reluctant readers


Dyslexia Action is pleased to announce the appointment of a new Interim Chief Executive, Matthew Simkins. His skills in the commercial and charity sector ensure that he brings a wealth of experience to the charity, particularly from a financial and overall strategic viewpoint. The charity looks forward to benefitting from his expertise and using his fresh and wide-ranging perspective to enhance its prospects and seek new and innovative ways to reach and support those with literacy and numeracy difficulties, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties.


Speaking about his new role Matthew said: “I’m delighted to be joining Dyslexia Action at this important time and look forward to working with the team to offer effective support and services to people with literacy and numeracy difficulties, dyslexia and other specific learning difficulties. Dyslexia Action’s cause is one that I am particularly passionate about. I appreciate the importance of getting the right support through my experience with a close family member who has dyslexia. I look forward to helping to steer the charity.”


Paula Whittle, Chair of Trustees, expressed her thanks to former Chief Executive, Stephen Hall, “for his dedication and hard work,” adding that Stephen has been “invaluable in shaping the direction of Dyslexia Action since he joined as Director of Operations in 2014”.

CHINDI, a local independent group of authors based in the Chichester area has been actively fundraising for the charity Dyslexia Action to help offer support to those with dyslexia, literacy and numeracy difficulties and other specific learning difficulties. 

CHINDI has so far held two fundraising events raising a total over £870 for the charity.

At their first event, CHINDI raised £730 for Dyslexia Action at their Love To Read party held at the Pallant Suite in Chichester on November 18th 2016.

Bognor based author, Helen Christmas organised this year’s event: ‘We had about one hundred guests with all the door money going directly to the charity. This is the second event we’ve held at the Pallant Suite and with the pay bar and great sound system it is perfect. A big thank you to all those companies that donated prizes worth over £600 for our raffle.’

Guests sampled wine and port from Hennings Wine in Chichester and delicious chocolates from Noble and Stace based in Midhurst. Three authors introduced their books by reading extracts on stage and the evening was topped off by some music from Dung, a local band that plays free for charity.

Helen added: ‘We plan to hold more events to support the charity in 2017. Sign up to our quarterly newsletter on our website or follow us on Facebook to find out more.’

The CHINDI group held a further event just before Christmas at a local pub, inviting people to sing along to carols in a bid to raise funds for Dyslexia Action. The event was a great success raising a further £135. 

Becky Whitman, Head of Marketing and Fundraising at Dyslexia Action commented: “Dyslexia Action is very grateful to the CHINDI authors. The support of groups like CHINDI is vital for our charity to help increase awareness and understanding of dyslexia and to raise much needed funds to offer support and advice to those who are affected. Dyslexia Action looks forward to working further with CHINDI in 2017.”


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