Holocaust Memorial Day 2020: The Reading Agency’s book recommendations

Holocaust Memorial Day takes place annually on 27 January, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is a time to remember the millions of people who lost their lives under Nazi Persecution and in subsequent genocides

There have been many fiction and non-fiction books written about the Holocaust, both by people who experienced it and other writers. We have selected a few titles suitable for different ages to give an insight into this period of history.

When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr

This is a semi-autobiographical story about a Jewish family feeling Germany before the start of the Second World War. When nine-year-old Anna’s father went missing in 1933, her mother secretly rushed her and her brother away from everything they knew: out of Germany, through Switzerland, Paris and finally to England.

The Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen

Fourteen-year-old Lisa was a musical prodigy who hoped to become a concert pianist. But when Hitler’s armies advanced on pre-war Vienna, her parents were forced to make a difficult decision. Able to secure passage for only one of their three daughters through the Kindertransport, they chose to send Lisa to London for safety. While she lived in a home for refugee children, her music became a beacon for hope.

I Never Saw Another Butterfly

In these poems and pictures drawn by the children who passed through the Terezin concentration camp we see their daily misery, their courage and optimism and their hopes and fears. These innocent and honest depictions allow us to see what life was like through the eyes of children-haunting reminders of what no child should ever have to see.

If This Is a Man by Primo Levi

In 1944, Primo Levi was deported from Italy to Auschwitz, where he remained until the camp was liberated by the Red Army the following year. A harrowing account of the horrors of the concentration camp system, If This Is a Man is also a meditation on what it means to be human and the difficult of retaining a sense of identity within a structure devoid of moral values.

Maus by Art Spiegelman

This graphic novel tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman, a Jewish survivor of Hitler’s Europe, and his son-a cartoonist coming to terms with his family’s history. Against the backdrop of guilt brought on by survival, they stage a normal life of small arguments and unhappy visits. This astonishing retelling of history is a story of survival-not only Vladek’s but of the children who survive the survivors.

The Choice by Edith Eger

In 1944, sixteen-year-old ballerina Edith was sent to Auschwitz. Separated from her parents on arrival she endures unimaginable experiences, including being made to dance for the infamous Josef Mengele. When the camp is finally liberated, she is pulled from a pile of bodies, barely alive. But the horrors of the Holocaust didn’t break Edith. Instead, they helped her to learn to live again with life-affirming strength and a truly remarkable resilience. The Choice is her unforgettable story, showing how hope can flower in the most unlikely of places.

Science and reading: A powerful combination that will create opportunities for the UK

• The Reading Agency have been successful in receiving £289,411 from Arts Council England’s National Lottery Project Grants to fund a ground-breaking new STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Maths) project.

• The project also benefits from £50,000 in funding from the Science, Technology and Facilities Council and so represents a joint investment from arts and science funders to tackle the intractable challenge of raising engagement in science among disadvantaged communities.

• The project will reach 219,115 people including 4000 children and young people in disadvantaged communities with science through reading.

• The project is supported by a wide range of leading organisations, including the British Science Association, Libraries Connected, STEM Ambassadors, The Natural History Museum, the British Library, DK Publishing, Walker Books and Nosy Crow.

• Ambassadors for the project are:
o Maggie Aderin-Pocock, a British scientist and educator who presents The BBC’s Sky At Night.
o Greg Foot, who has created science engagement broadcasts for CBBC and BBC3.
o Prof. Hugh Montgomery, a pioneer in intensive care medicine.

There is a persistent gap in science engagement and participation among lower socioeconomic groups, teenage girls and BME communities. The 2017 Social Mobility Commission Report states that only 15% of scientists, 21% of engineers, 9% of doctors and 6% of life science professionals come from working-class backgrounds. STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts and Maths) is a new multi-disciplinary approach that has been developed in the USA to introduce new audiences to STEM through activities and methods driven by arts and reading.

The Reading Agency are delighted to be working with science partners, publishers and public libraries to channel the amazing power of reading to bring science skills and learning to new audiences of children and young people. This exciting new programme of work will mark an important step change in the STREAM agenda. This is a timely moment for The Reading Agency and Arts Council England to introduce this model to the UK and showcase the potential role of reading and arts, as STEM engagement organisations actively seek new, collaborative approaches to engaging disadvantaged audiences.

Sue Williamson, Director, Libraries, Arts Council England, says: “As the National Development Agency for Libraries, Arts Council England is delighted to support this project which uses the richly representative audience that libraries attract to bring together science, love of reading and creativity to help children and families see that science is fun and exciting. We know that science and creativity are very closely linked but that science is often something that people lose interest in in once they leave school and hope that this project will encourage an interest and help to develop a lasting love for science in people of all ages.

We’re particularly pleased that we are partnering with the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Natural History Museum, Springer Nature, the British Science Association and Dorling Kindersley publishers alongside such a stellar communicator as Greg Foot. We are also thrilled that Maggie Aderin-Pocock and Prof. Hugh Montgomery have agreed to be ambassadors.”

The project will be rolled out over 10 library sites around the country and will enable children aged 4-11 and their families to discover science and do more reading through STREAM (science, technology, reading, arts and maths) activities. The activities will be designed by young people aged 14-18 and be delivered through creative writing, digital making, interactive exhibits in the library space and creative workshop and activity commissions with authors and science engagement experts. Families will experience fun and engaging year-round STREAM activities in the library delivered by experts, authors, library staff, volunteers and young people. The programme will build positive perceptions of science in places with low aspiration/engagement in higher education and with low cultural participation.

Jenni Chambers, Director at The Science and Technology Facilities Council says: “The Science and Technology Facilities Council, part of UK Research and Innovation, is pleased to be supporting The Reading Agency in developing this ambitious project which will build on our work in supporting STEM skills in communities across the country. This new approach to delivering science-focussed reading and arts activities in libraries has the potential to make a real difference in engaging new families, children and young people in the wonder and excitement of STEM.

For further information contact [email protected]

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The Reading Agency

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