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What is Kingston University’s Big Read all about?

Kingston University located in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames comprises of four modern campuses and is the largest provider of higher education in South West London. 

Kingston University launched the Big Read project in 2015 with an objective of creating a sense of belonging in students with the local community and encouraging them to socialise and hold discussions with other students.

In 2015, Nick Hornby’s About a Boy was chosen for the Big Read. The book received an overwhelming response and more copies had to be printed due to high demand. In 2016, The Humans by Matt Haig proved to be immensely popular and paved the way for future reads shortlisted for the event.

Kingston University’s inspiration behind the Big Read was similar schemes in the United States that helped students adjusting to the university life on campus. Since its inception, Kingston students have welcomed the initiative and thanked the university for starting something so creative.

Allison Williams, a US student at KU says: “Starting a new phase of life can be challenging, doing so while also moving to a new country can be overwhelming. Receiving a copy of About a Boy during my first week in the UK was a unique and engaging way to help me feel welcome and also connect with my new classmates. It was an honour to then work on the follow-up project, determining a formula for choosing the next KU Big Read title.”

Another student from the UK said: “I really liked the welcoming nature of it. I thought the idea behind it was wonderful and it made me feel better about coming to the University. I became part of the group before the dreaded first day.”

Although some universities in the UK have introduced reading programs in the past, Kingston University was the first institution to organise the Big Read on such a big scale. A panel consisting of students and staff were nominated to read all six titles and had to choose one title for the Big Read project.

Last year, Kingston University conducted surveys for the Big Read after holding discussions with students and staff members. Kit de Waal’s My Name is Leon was the winning title and the most widely discussed book at the university.

Big Read Director Alison Baverstock, said the selection process is a reflection of the university’s efforts to create a sense of belonging amongst its students when they first arrive on campus. “This is a really exciting list of six different titles from a range of authors who reflect the breadth and diversity of the University and our wider community,” she stated. “The aim of the scheme is to bring people together through shared reading and we’re looking forward to exploring the shortlist to find our next Big Read.”

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Kingston University prides itself for having one of the most diverse communities of students from countries such as India, Pakistan, Nigeria, Spain, France, Italy. The Big Read hopes to create a connection between students and staff and helping them build a stronger bond with other students at Kingston. Once a place has been offered, all new students will receive a free copy of the shortlisted book, and staff and current students can also get free copies to read over the summer break.

This year’s winning title was Gail Honeyman’s debut novel Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Honeyman whose book won the Costa Book of the Year 2017 Award praised the Big Read project initiated by Kingston University when she visited the Penrhyn Road campus last month.

For 2019, a series of events are scheduled to take place at Kingston University for the Big Read.

The scheme is becoming popular year by year, with the university including more titles to the list as well as organising the Extreme Reading competition on Instagram and Twitter during the summer period.

Featured image: Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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