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International Literacy Day 2021 – some tips and tricks for Read Hour Wednesday, 08 September 2021

How often do you get a chance to settle down with a good book? How long do you actually get to spend with that book before the usual distractions kick in (your phone/your children/your bath water now feeling quite tepid and unpleasant)?

This International Literacy Day, on Wednesday, 8th September, the UK is joining Read Hour, an initiative born in Finland to promote the benefits of reading. Officially that hour is 2pm – 3pm, but you can pick any one in your day that works for your needs. Everyone taking part is encouraged to share a photo of themselves reading on social media and use the hashtag #ReadHourUK. 

But what, we hear you cry, am I supposed to read in this hour? In response to which, we point you towards the illustrious reading lists for our GCSE and A level English Literature courses. And if you’re struggling to narrow those down to fit your tastes, here’s our handy guide to picking a book based on your favourites as a child. 

You enjoyed: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman

Have you considered: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley? (GCSE English Literature) 

With Arctic climates, disastrous experiments and even – for the boffins among us – references to Milton’s Paradise Lost in common, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein are very much an epic crossover waiting to happen. Astonish your peers with confident statements about how it’s the maker who’s called Frankenstein, actually, not the monster, and if we’re going to quibble then we might say that really it’s the maker who’s the monstrous one full stop because the creature only ever wanted to be loved and instead he was only ever treated with contempt— 

Anyway.

You have fond memories of: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

What about pivoting to: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald? (A level English Literature) 

You’re sucked into the dazzling world of a rich eccentric with a secret agenda. Is that agenda: a) selecting an heir for his chocolatier business from a tour group of largely very spoiled children or b) throwing loud and glittering house parties in order to lure back The One That Got Away? Great for those of us who enjoy escapism, magical unfamiliar worlds and a good dollop of smugness when we watch the ludicrous behaviour of others. 

You loved: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips by Michael Morpurgo

Is it now time for: Spies by Michael Frayn? (A level English Literature) 

Two reflections on childhood, innocence and friendship in WWII-era Britain. If you loved Michael Morpurgo’s 2005 classic (perhaps – life hack – you took a black and white cat plushie into school on World Book Day and called it a ‘Lily costume’), try setting yourself the challenge of this slightly darker, more psychological equivalent from the great dramatist Michael Frayn (can’t go wrong with a good Michael, anyway). 

You read: Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson

Bit of a leap, but try: Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (GCSE English Literature) 

Two stories about twins. Nuff said. 

You spent literal hours with: Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Redeem yourself now with: The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (A level English Literature) 

A somewhat controversial comparison to make but let’s roll with it. If, as a teenager (or as an adult), you were captivated by the pure longing that pervades Stephenie Meyer’s vampire trilogy, you might now appreciate the devastating repressed emotion of Nobel-Prize-Winner Kazuo Ishiguro’s love story between an interwar butler and housekeeper. Sure, in theory it’s quite a jump to go from Team Edward / Team Jacob to a balding Anthony Hopkins in the Remains of the Day film adaptation, but that’s the beauty of literary growth. 

Let us know what you chose in the comments! And if you really want to get your teeth into some of these texts, check out our course samples for GCSE and A level English Literature with NEC.

Helen Grant is a recent graduate from Murray Edwards College, Cambridge and a current NEC marketing intern.

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