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How Do You Choose a Book for a Pre-arrival Shared Reading Scheme in a University?

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A case study

This paper continues the exploration of Kingston University’s pre-arrival shared reading scheme, the Kingston University Big Read (KUBR), this time considering action research into how best to choose a common book. After a review of methods used to choose books both specifically in American universities and generally within large shared reading groups, the method used for the KUBR is described. A key objective of the KUBR is to promote inclusion, so the longlist of titles considered was produced by inviting the entire community to submit suggestions. Since the list was extensive, time to make a choice was short, and there was a strong desire for the methodology to be as objective as possible, it was decided to identify the key criteria relevant to choosing a suitable book and then use a simple algorithm—essentially a weighted scoring system—to score each book using readily available data in order to make a shortlist of six books. These were then read by a panel of students and administrative and academic staff. The book finally chosen was Matt Haig’s The Humans. This paper details each step of the method and finishes with an appraisal and lessons learnt for next time.

The co-authors were all involved in this project through a shared staff–student research project at Kingston University in 2015–2016. The SADRAS scheme, which was the basis of their collaboration, invites students to work with staff on a research project intended to benefit the future experience of Kingston students. All the former students involved are now working in or around the international publishing industry.

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