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The Big Read at Hallam Library

Welcome to the Big Read at Hallam Library

Welcome to the Big Read! This initiative will see all new students receive a free copy of 'My Name is Leon' with the hope that it will allow for first discussions and social interactions to happen more easily as all new starters will have a common topic of interest. 

Book cover for My Name Is LeonKit de Waal













In Association with the Hallam Guild

Hallam Guild Logo

This guide will introduce you to the project, what we have planned, how you can get involved, further leisure reading suggestions and much more. We hope that you enjoy reading My Name is Leon. As the book addresses some themes which may resonate with some of you personally, there is lots of support and advice available - see the support section for further information

During Semester 1 (2019/20), there will be activities relating to the novel for students and staff to get involved in. These will include book clubs and discussion groups and activities relating to the themes of the novel which include: mental health issues, the care system and racial inequality. During your first year at Sheffield Hallam University we would like to encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences with each other. There will be many opportunities to get involved in numerous events and activities. Here you will find extra information about the book, and a discussion space where you are invited to share your thoughts.

This is the selected book for our first ever Big Read.  The Big Read was first delivered by Kingston University after research into similar initiatives from American universities, and is a shared reading scheme that we hope will help you to settle into university life alongside a community of your peers also reading the same book.

The Big Read at Hallam Library

We are so excited to bring the Big Read to you! 

Our video below offers more information on this exciting project and what you can do to get involved!

Take a look at other resources with links to 'Leon'

A collection of media with links to 'My Name is Leon.'

Such as racial identity and cultural heritage, as well as issues surrounding the Handsworth Riots and other events of the year 1981. Benjamin Zephaniah's work often depicts the cultural and racial realities of living as a black person, while the film 'Handsworth Songs' and the interview with Steel Pulse echo events of the year 1981 where 'My Name is Leon is set.

Finally, the novels listed were originally published in 1981, once you have finished 'Leon' why don't you give one of these a try?


Stay well, Stay Safe

Your health is incredibly important! Starting at university can be an amazing time with ups and downs!  The Student Wellbeing Service can help you manage personal issues that might impact on your studies and your life, and we offer a range of options to support you during your time here. 

You can find out more about Student Wellbeing Support support by searching the MyHallam search box with these words - student wellbeing service, or click on the link below:

Get involved with the SHSU Reading Society!

A great way to make friends at Hallam is to join a society related to something you enjoy! If you are keen on reading and would like to meet other students that share an interest in books, take a look at SHSU Reading Society! You can find out about new books and turn your reading into a shared experience and you may even make friends for life!

Find out more by following the links below to the SHSU Reading Society and the Sheffield Hallam Students Union list of societies below.

Happy reading!

Get chatting... or how to run a book group!

As part of the 'Hallam Big Read', you might want to discuss with other students the topics, themes and your own responses to My name is Leon. This can happen in lots of different ways. Casual conversations are fine - catching up in a kitchen or over a cup of coffee. Alternatively, you might want to organise a get together to explore the themes in the book.

To talk about My name is Leon in a more structured way, you might consider setting up a book group (also called a reading group). There aren't any rules about who can join in - you might want to do this with people on your course, in a club or people living in the same halls.

The following are some questions that you can use to get a discussion started. These aren't intended to be a comprehensive or definitive list, but starting points for your own sharing of ideas.

If you haven't been involved in a book group before, these hints might be helpful:

  1. The group can vary in size, but if it grows to more than eight people, it can be difficult to get an opportunity to speak.

  2. When you read 'My name is Leon', you might find it helpful to make notes about issues or passages that you want to discuss.

  3. Find a meeting place where you will all feel comfortable, and where you can sit together. There are lots of social learning spaces and cafes around the university, or use the libraries!

  4. When you meet, think about how you will get the discussion going. Sometimes it's more helpful to have someone prepared to be facilitator, leading the questions and ensuring everyone is included. Other times, you will find it easier to ask questions in turn.

  5. Listening to what people say is as important as talking. Think about listening actively and making space for everyone to join in - just like you would in group work anywhere.

  6. Remember, this isn't an assessed activity. Talking about the book can be a springboard for discussing other issues. You might decide to meet just once, or set up meetings every few weeks to share experiences.

  7. Finally, and this is most important of all: enjoy the book, and thrive in your time here!

I read a lot for my course! Tell me about the benefits of reading for fun!!!

This is what recreational reading can do for you...

 1. It can help to reduce stress

Chiles (2009) reports on research produced by Dr David Lewis, at the University of Sussex, which states that "It doesn't really matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the world and spend a while exploring the domain of the authors imagination"

2. It can improve memory - which in turn can help to stabilise your mood

Reading works your brain and prevents memory loss. Participating in cognitive activities, such as reading over your life time (both early and later in life) was shown to slow down memory loss when compared to those who didn’t participate in mentally stimulating activities. The same study also found that the rate of mental decline was reduced by 32% when people participated in reading, writing and other activities later on in life. While those with infrequent stimulating activity found that their decline was 48% faster than those with average activity.

3. It can improve levels of empathy, allowing for improved social relationships 

Fish, W (2015)  "Reading expands a person's appreciation towards other life experiences the reader is not personally experiencing, especially when reading topics that are not related to that readers job or lifestyle'

The Big Read reading list online

If you have liked what you have seen so far and are curious what else the Library can offer in relation to recreational reading... take a look at the themed Reading lists below or the boxes in the Fiction and Non-Fiction section of the guide.

Happy reading!

Hallam Librarians: Recommended reads!

Recommend something for the Library

We love books... and are always looking for new publications to support your learning and teaching, and to keep the library collections up to date with high-quality materials.  If you think we're missing something crucial though, we'd like to hear about it.  You can let us know here.