WORLD BOOK NIGHT PARTY PACK Literary debate
Lots of things make for a good party: food, drink, music and good company to name but a few. But no party would be complete without a good argument. And as it’s World Book Night, the argument should, surely, be about books.
SO. WHO’S READY FOR A FIGHT? (Let’s organise a debate. )
WHAT IS A DEBATE? We often use the term ‘debate’ loosely to describe any kind of heated discussion, but formal debating has a long history and several sets of rather complicated rules. (look it up online and you’ll see!) Essentially though, it’s a group discussion in a public forum which involves teams or individuals arguing for and against a particular ‘motion’.
The teams or individuals will try to convince the audience to side with them and, at the end, the winner is the person who gets the most votes from the audience.
PLANNING YOUR DEBATE You need to start planning your debate well in advance of World Book Night. Hopefully the date (World Book Night) the venue (the library) will already be agreed but you’ll need to think about the following:
• The theme/motion for the debate • Who will be speaking • Furniture • Refreshments • Publicity (For information on publicity and refreshments, see the other World Book Night resources).
COMING UP WITH A WORLD BOOK NIGHT THEME If you’re going to have a debate as part of your World Book Night celebrations, the first thing you need is a motion or a theme. You could choose a general reading theme or one that’s more specifically related to the World Book Night books.
GENERAL THEMES General reading themes might be framed into motions along the following lines: • Women are better writers than men • The internet has killed the book • Young people don’t read anymore • Non-fiction has more value than fiction • Fantasy books are escapist trash • With the advent of the e-book, there is no need for paperbacks
You’ll notice that these statements are deliberately provocative. That’s because you need to frame statements that give people something to argue passionately about. You do need to make sure that there is a strong case to be made on either side though, in order for the debate to be effective. It’s no good debating the motion “reading is boring” if the whole audience is made up of avid readers.
WORLD BOOK NIGHT THEME A World Book Night theme is more complicated to arrange because not everyone will have read the books. However this could be used to your advantage as part of the debate could be to convince the audience to read the books. So, what are the World Book Night books?
WORLD BOOK NIGHT BOOKLIST The World Book Night booklist can be found here: http: //www. worldbooknight. org/books It includes Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses and The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. As well as lots of other great titles.
YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK BECAUSE…. . To use the World Book Night books effectively, the easiest style of debate would be one in which two or more people try to persuade the audience to read their particular World Book Night book. You could begin with the statement above or invent something similar:
WBN DEBATING MOTIONS • This is the best book I’ve ever read • If you only read one book this year it should be this one • This book will change your life because….
DEBATING FORMAT Whatever the subject of the debate, the essential elements will be the same. You’ll need to have: • A suitable layout for the room • A chair (as in, a person who is in in charge. You’ll actually need several chairs to sit on!) • Two or more debating teams or individuals • An audience • A prize
ROOM LAYOUT Just as in a presidential debate, you’ll want to set out the room with two lecterns or tables for the speakers to stand at and have the audience arranged in a semi-circle or in rows, theatrestyle.
DEBATE STRUCTURE A debating structure can take lots of different forms but a simple structure would be something like this: • Opening statement 1 (for the motion) • Opening statement 2 (against the motion) • Questions and discussion from the floor • Closing statement 1 • Closing statement 2 • Vote
THE SWING VOTE If your debate is a more classic debate motion e. g. “in the current spending crisis, libraries are a luxury not a necessity”, you can take votes from the audience at the beginning and at the end and see how far the public have swung (or changed their views).
THE OPENING STATEMENT You might choose to just have one person make the opening statement or you could have a team of 2 or 3 young people who all make an opening statement. The opening statement sets out why you believe what you believe and presents some compelling and persuasive reasoning to the audience. There are no set rules for how long the opening statement should be but 5 -10 minutes is probably about right.
THE DISCUSSION SEGMENT This is where the chair comes in handy. He or she will take questions from the floor and present them to the debaters who will do their best to answer. This segment might go on for up to half an hour. The chair will need to make sure that both debaters get an equal chance to air their views during this section and that all audience members are heard.
CLOSING The closing is similar to the conclusion of an essay. It’s the debater’s chance to rephrase their opening with some revisions. This is the final chance to get the audience on side, so it’s important to keep some good material for the closing statement.
VOTING Voting should be straightforward. For suspense, you could do the voting by anonymous ballot papers but it’s just as easy to have a show of hands.
All in favour, say “ay”!