Reading for life: 10 years of the CILIP CKG Shadowing Scheme

Why is reading for pleasure so crucial? Find out in our report in ALCS's tenth year of supporting the CILIP Carnegie Shadowing Scheme.

March will see the launch of ALCS’s annual writing competition for children, run through the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway (CKG) shadowing scheme. This scheme is one of the UK’s major reading for pleasure initiatives, and follows the judging process of the CKG Medals – the children’s book awards said to be the most coveted by writers and illustrators. In ten years of ALCS involvement with the scheme, we’ve been able to reach thousands of children through our creative writing competitions and online copyright resources, and with research continuing to suggest that reading for pleasure is in decline, the scheme seems ever more valuable.

Being a frequent reader is more of an advantage than having educated parents…

The CKG Medals are unique in that they are judged by librarians. Run by the Chartered Institute of Librarians and Information Professionals (CILIP), the Carnegie Medal and the Kate Greenaway Medal are awarded respectively to the writer and the illustrator of an outstanding book for children. The accompanying shadowing scheme mirrors the judging process with groups of youngsters reading, discussing and reviewing the books as well as engaging in online activities.

And the reach of the shadowing scheme is vast. In September 2016, CKG recorded over 5,800 registered reading groups, reaching an estimated 100,000 children. During the year the CKG website had more than 130,000 visitors, generating over a million views.

This huge reach has allowed our work with the CKG shadowing scheme to flourish and has formed a significant part of ALCS’s extensive and ongoing work to raise awareness of authors’ rights with young people through our copyright education resources. These have been designed specifically for school children at both secondary and primary level and are promoted heavily through the shadowing scheme.

75% of the shadowing group leaders are librarians.


There are a number of notable reading for pleasure campaigns in the UK, carrying out both valuable and necessary work. The latest is the Publishers Association’s (PA) ‘Reading Ambassador’ programme which was launched last year, inspired by National Literacy Trust research which showed that one in six adults struggles to read. The PA aims to recruit 10,000 reading ambassadors by 2020 to help youngsters get into reading to help stem the problem of adult illiteracy. The National Literacy Trust itself does extensive work in this area through its ‘Young Readers Programme’.

The CKG shadowing scheme is long-established and has stood the test of time, perhaps due to its connection with high quality literature, and its strong relationship to the library community. Set up in the early 1990s, it has continued to grow, with significant developments in the initiative in the last four years. These developments were driven by a number of studies into the impact of reading for pleasure.

One such study is The Reading Agency’s recent research, The Impact of Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment. Representatives of CILIP were on the steering group working with the Reading Agency which set out to document robust evidence of the wellbeing outcomes of reading for pleasure. The study provides clear evidence that reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and dementia, and improve wellbeing throughout life.

Further, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that being a frequent reader is much more of an advantage than having educated parents (OECD, 2009), proving reading to be a most effective tool for social change.

These findings helped CILIP to build on its strategy in assessing and enhancing the shadowing scheme through a piece of its own research, which produced some very interesting results on how the scheme is run and what its benefits are.

…reading for pleasure can increase empathy, improve relationships with others, reduce the symptoms of depression and dementia, and improve wellbeing throughout life.

One such fact that emerged is that 75% of the shadowing group leaders were librarians. Given that the CILIP research was published in 2012, this now feels like an alarming number considering the large number of cuts to librarian posts, both in schools and in the community.

A further 22% of shadowing group leaders were teachers, with the remainder being run by adults in other centres. Almost all of the groups were found to be extra-curricular, with group meetings taking place either at lunchtimes, after school or during morning tutor sessions.

Interestingly, CILIP noted that Ofsted has argued for all schools to focus on reading for pleasure more explicitly and in a planned manner. However, it was found that there is often a lack of clarity in schools on who should be responsible for this, particularly in secondary schools. Not to mention the lack of resources to help support such a change.


CILIP’s report on the benefits for young readers in the scheme were very encouraging. Increased pleasure in reading was – as one would hope – at the top of the list, along with the benefit of widening children’s reading repertoires. Shadowing leaders reflected that the scheme helped youngsters to engage in high-quality texts, as well as introducing them to new genres and authors. Also reported was an increase in confidence from the children: they felt ‘safe’ in voicing views during discussions and consistently drew favourable comparisons between the extracurricular sessions and their English lessons, citing less pressure and a supportive atmosphere. The absence of assessment was also a driving force to a more positive experience.

Ofsted has argued for all schools to focus on reading for pleasure more explicitly and in a planned manner.

The research conceded that more work could be done to reach youngsters in areas where engagement was low, particularly in Scotland, the North East and the East of England. There was a geographical imbalance, showing 37% of groups were in London, with the North East of England accounting for only 3.5% of the total membership

These results prompted a CILIP strategy to reach those underrepresented areas, as well as ‘less-assured’ readers. The CKG shadowing scheme now appoints ‘Shadowing Champion’ groups in each area, who can be called on by other groups in that region to share their experiences and encourage them to connect more closely with the award through a visit from their regional CKG judge (each region has its own judge). CILIP’s Youth Libraries Group also aims to reach less-assured readers by working with teachers and librarians through their conferences, training days and publications and encouraging the use of shadowing and other tools as a resolution.


Nick Poole, CILIP Chief Executive commented on the relationship between the organisations: “CILIP would like to thank ALCS for ten years’ sponsorship of the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Medals, the country’s oldest and most prestigious children’s book awards. ALCS’ long-term support for the Medals and accompanying shadowing scheme has meant that every year thousands of young people have enjoyed high quality creative resources and activities that support reading for pleasure and encourage deeper thinking about the outstanding writing and illustration on the shortlists. We enormously value our partnership with ALCS that brings librarians and authors together to celebrate the best books for young people and promote copyright education.”

Over the last decade, the CKG shadowing scheme has empowered countless children through reading and discussion. Through its decade-long sponsorship of the scheme, ALCS has also been able to carry out vital work in educating young people about creativity and copyright. In the last ten years, engagement in our annual CKG creative writing competition has steadily increased. The first year saw 400 entries; last year’s creative writing competition on the theme of ‘The Journey’ resulted in exactly 1,100 entries. These competitions are designed to inform and educate, encouraging participants to have fun and take pride in the writing they produce.

ALCS is therefore delighted to once again work with CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shadowing Scheme in 2017, particularly in this important anniversary year for the awards in which the Carnegie Medal turns 70 and the Kate Greenaway Medal turns 50.

And not forgetting the amazing work carried out by librarians, teachers and other people in the community who run this valuable scheme in their spare time. We salute you!

Report by Jade Zienkiewicz from the Communciations team at ALCS


>> Enriching reading for pleasure – CKG research into the shadowing scheme

>> Reading for pleasure and empowerment – see CILIP’s blog on the Reading Agency’s Research