Guest Post:’Brighton Young City Reads’ by Sarah Hutchings

A great Brighton-based initiative (‘City Reads’) really caught our imagination-we love the idea that a whole city becomes immersed in reading -and discussing-one particular book. The ‘giant book group’ has now expanded to include a ‘Young City Reads’  and we asked Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director of Collected Works CIC – the organisation behind the scheme – to talk us through the concept and what it means to the young people of Brighton.

What is City Reads?
Young City Reads Logo
City Reads is a large scale, collective read that takes place in Brighton & Hove every year. The concept is simple: one book by one author is selected for the whole community to read, discuss, debate and creatively engage with in a series of special events, workshops and performances. It is run by innovative arts organisation: Collected Works, led by Artistic Director, Sarah Hutchings

How did it begin?
It all started when Penguin Books suggested a ‘big read’ in Brighton & Hove. Penguin was celebrating its 70th anniversary. The book chosen was Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland, the city loved it, the magic had begun…

How did it develop?
Eight years on and City Reads has become a permanent fixture in the city’s cultural calendar. Its audience has grown hugely and during the City Reads festival in Sept and Oct, it’s as if the city becomes a giant book group.

How did Young City Reads evolve?
Emil and the Detectives_cover (1)
For a couple of years now, many City Reads participants have been saying, ‘wouldn’t it be great to create this sort of buzz around a children’s book’.  The seed was planted and the City Reads team prepared for the right opportunity. Enter Michael Rosen, stage left.

When Michael Rosen was chosen as Guest Director for Brighton Festival 2013, it just seemed like serendipity. Erich Kästner’s,  Emil and the Detectives was Michael’s favourite children’s book, so the choice seemed obvious. Emil is a timeless children’s classic, with charm and warmth: perfect for the first ever Young City Reads.

Who is it for?
Young City Reads is for everyone: whether you’re an amateur sleuth, avid junior bookworm, outright brilliant teacher or doting parent who loves to read aloud to your kids. It doesn’t matter who you are: Young City Reads is about opening up the world of words and ideas to everyone.

How does it work?
It couldn’t be simpler. The idea is to get young readers (and grown-ups) everywhere reading Emil and the Detectives between World Book Day 07 March and the end of May 2013. All you need to do to get involved is pick up a copy from your local library or bookshop and start reading! If you are a teacher you can sign up your whole class and read the book together in school. Emil made his dramatic debut back in 1929 with the book’s original German publication. Since then the book has been translated into over 60 languages and adapted for the screen half a dozen times. Almost a century on, Emil and the Detectives still causes a stir, with its wry humour, hair-raising plot, and timeless themes of friendship and cooperation. It is an international classic of children’s literature.

How will it work in the Classroom?
Over the last couple of months local Primary Schools have been encouraged to sign up and register interest in Young City Reads. To take part, primary schools have agreed to read Emil and the Detectives in class together between 7 March (World Book Day) – 24 May.

During the project, each participating school will also be sent a weekly e-bulletin or ‘Young City Reads Special’. These bulletins will contain Emil themed quizzes, topics for class discussion and downloadable activities, designed by the City Reads Team to inspire young readers to engage with the book. We’ve also created a fictional ‘Young and Reader Detective Agency’ and some lucky schools will be getting a visit from staff at ‘Young and Reader’ who will be recruiting for young detectives. Pupils will be tested to see if they can work together to decide what it takes to make a good amateur young sleuth!

Michael_RosenwebThe cherry on top is the very special closing event for schools, to be hosted by none other than Michael Rosen on 24 May at Brighton Festival. It will be a live interactive event celebrating Emil and the Detectives and is expected to sell out rather quickly.

Here’s what Michael Rosen has to say about Young City Reads: ‘I think it’s wonderful that a whole city is going to read the book at the same time. I think this will build up a great sense of everyone exploring the book together. I think it’ll make more and more people eager to find out what the book is like, and everyone will have ideas about it.’

Laura Hassan, Editorial Director of Vintage Children’s Classics commented “I am not going to say a single word about the dirty rotten thief in the bowler hat, nor about the gang of young super sleuths, nor even about the sizeable cash reward… All I am going to say is that it is terrific that Erich Kästner, the Roald Dahl of Germany, will be being read and enjoyed by Brighton & Hove children. I hope the streets are filled with knowing cries of ‘Password Emil!’”

Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director, Collected Works CIC, commented, “A key part of the government’s commitment to improving literacy skills for all pupils is in promoting the importance of reading for pleasure. Young City Reads is a project that encourages children to share their enjoyment of literature. There is a power in sharing books and stories together, and the younger we start the more fulfilling our lives will be.”


Sarah Hutchings, Artistic Director – Collected Works CIC
Email: Tel: 07985 159618

Young City Reads website –
Brighton Festival website –
Vintage Children’s Classics –
Vintage Children’s Classics: World of Stories –

 The edition Brighton & Hove will be reading is:
Emil and the Detectives, ISBN: 9780099572848


  • To get involved primary schools need to sign-up to register and simply agree to read Emil and the Detectives together in class between (7 March – 24 May).
  • It couldn’t be simpler for schools to register interest. The Class or Head Teacher just needs to complete a sign-up form on the City Reads website at:
  • Throughout the project, participating classes will receive FREE weekly e-bulletins (City Reads Specials) which will include short Emil and the Detectives inspired: quizzes, puzzles and activities for pupils to complete during class or at registration.
  • Participating schools will also get two video messages from Michael Rosen in which he will talk about why he thinks it is such a great read.
  • Those taking part will also get the chance to host a special in-school “Emil” event at their school.

Erich Kästner:

Kastner 2 (1)Erich Kästner was born in Dresden in Germany in 1899. Like Emil, Erich was an only child and was devoted to his mother who worked as a hairdresser to supplement the family income. He was drafted into the army in 1917, and the brutality of his experiences made him strongly anti-war. He published Emil and the Detectives in 1928 and Emil and the Three Twins in 1933. The books were extremely popular with young readers, but when Hitler came to power, the books were labelled anti-German and burnt during the infamous bookburnings of 1933, instigated by the then Nazi propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels. Erich Kästner was one of the only authors actually present as his books were tossed on to the flames. During his lifetime Erich Kästner received many awards including the Georg Büchner Prize (1957) and the prestigious Hans Christian Andersen Prize (1960). He died in 1974.

 About Vintage Children’s Classics:

VINTAGE CLASSICS has existed since the inception of Vintage in 1990 and is widely seen as the premier twentieth-century classics list in the UK VINTAGE CHILDREN’S CLASSICS is a beautiful and affordable series of books intended to inspire and nurture a lifelong love of reading in children and adults alike. The series launched in 2012 with 20 titles and featured perennial favourites such as Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Frances Hodgson-Burnett’s The Secret Garden and Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island alongside much-loved contemporary classics exclusive to Random House including The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John  Boyne. Further titles in the series will launch later this year.

Each beautifully designed volume contains exclusive extra ‘Backstory’ material, including quizzes and family activities and fascinating facts about the books and their authors. The series is accompanied by a dedicated interactive website for children The website includes fun quizzes, downloads and extra material where children are able to find out more about their favourite characters and stories.


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