Cover Story is our yearly pick of the best teen reads. The booklist (available free in libraries and online) contains 48 of the best books for 11 – 14 year olds published in the last year. All have been specially selected by our librarians and it really is a fantastic resource. There’s a competition too in which we invite young people who live and/or attend school in the borough to recommend and review a book they’ve enjoyed. The winners will receive a £20 voucher, and a certificate presented by one of the authors on this year’s list. Previous authors for the prize-giving ceremony have been Malorie Blackman, Joe Craig and Elizabeth Laird.

As part of the promotion, librarians from our Reading and Learning teams are currently visiting Year 7 classes in several of the borough’s secondary schools, tantalising pupils with a taste of the books on this year’s booklist and encouraging as many as possible to take part. So far we’ve visited Grey Court and Hampton High and soon we’ll be visiting Waldegrave School to speak to a whopping eight classes. After that we’ll be off to Richmond Park Academy.

Behind the scenes

A lot of hard work takes place behind the scenes before the booklist and competition is launched, with each librarian compiling a hotlist of books they’d like to see featured in the promotion. This is followed by a lively discussion (heated argument!) during which we finally decide what books will, and won’t, make the list. When an agreement has been reached we begin work on the booklet itself; writing a short and snappy review for each title, sourcing cover images of the featured books and finally editing the whole lot before sending it off to the designer. We also liaise with the council’s Digital Team regarding the Cover Story web pages and the online entry form for the competition.

When the finished booklets arrive from the printers (always an exciting moment for us!), we send them out to every library and secondary school in the borough; then it’s time to make the webpage live. A Reading Team librarian liaises with colleagues at the borough’s secondary schools to arrange dates and times for us to visit the Year 7 classes.

In preparation for each visit we (librarians from our Reading and Learning teams) first have to select extracts to read, two to three pages in length, from some of our favourite books on the list. Excerpts have to be snappy and engaging, offering an exciting glimpse into the world of the book that will hopefully entice the pupils to want to read more – so choosing the right passage is vital!

Visiting the schools

Often our sessions take place in the school’s library, although sometimes we’re asked to speak to pupils in their classrooms instead. Sessions can last from 25 minutes to an hour, depending on how the school day is arranged. During some visits we’ll be speaking to one class at a time, whereas on other occasions we’ll talk to several classes together. Very occasionally we might even be moved into a school hall or drama studio and be asked to speak to an entire year group at once.

We begin the session by introducing the booklist and competition and usually move onto reading the first of our book extracts. Reading aloud is always the highlight of our sessions (for us as well as for the pupils!) and it’s through these carefully chosen passages that we hope to engage the young people. We follow the first reading by talking to the pupils about the library service itself; about our dedicated teenage areas, IT facilities, audiobooks, eBooks and teen reading groups, before moving on to a second carefully chosen reading. Depending on the length of the session we might also talk some more about the books on the list and ask our young audience to tell us about any they have particularly enjoyed reading. We try to make these sessions fun and interactive, promoting the idea of reading for pleasure as well as learning – something about which we’re all absolutely passionate.


We receive hundreds of competition entries each year as part of Cover Story, and it’s a really great way of keeping young people passionate about books and reading as they move into their teenage years. We love visiting schools, discussing and effusing about books with pupils, and we really enjoy reading their book recommendations as they arrive in the office. Picking the winners, though, that’s never easy.

The competition closes on 28 February and we look forward to reading your book recommendation(s) soon. Good luck!


Visit the Cover Story webpage here and see which books we’ve chosen.

You can submit your entries online here.

[Colm O’Reilly, Librarian]