About us

Book Clubs in Schools (BCiS) takes the normal book club model and makes it suitable for schools. Book Clubbers read the same book, then discuss it in small weekly book clubs held during school time, facilitated by Book Club Leaders, who are older pupils.


Leaders receive training to help them lead a positive, constructive discussion where younger pupils can learn to formulate coherent critical thoughts, express diverging opinions and learn to argue and disagree with each other calmly and respectfully.


Leaders are trained through following an online training film which includes time for the live problem solving discussions with their peers during the training.  They also receive a BCiS training manual as a written guide which reiterates what they have learned in the training session.   Book Club Leaders are given bespoke discussion questions and activities which they can use each week to lead the book club.


BCiS give young people the opportunity to read for pleasure and develop character, communication and social skills.

See a Book Club in action.

Book Clubs in Schools is run by Ali Palmer and Katy Donnelly

Ali brings her sense of humour and a practical approach to Book Clubs in Schools. As one of the co-founders with Beth Ginsburg (now a trustee) she understands the project inside and out.

Katy brings her expert ability to see the big picture and keep on eye on the details and with her Masters in Children’s Literature knows her Aitken to Zephaniah.

Our Patron – Alex Wheatle

“I am proud to be named as Book Clubs in Schools’ patron because I spent some time in a similar facility to the Pupil Referral Units (PRU) that BCiS work with. As Creative Writing Lecturer of Children’s Writing at Manchester Met University, it’s great that the Manchester PRU is part of the pilot. I understand that some students can find it difficult to engage with reading and think it’s vitally important to publish more diverse fiction that engages and relates to students. I know first-hand that reading can also promote empathy, compassion and understanding of others, which is why the Book Clubs in Schools’ work resonates with me”

Our Trustees


Katy Whelan

Chair of Governors, WLFS

Katy Whelan (chair of trustees) is a senior business management professional with a background in financial services and education management. She spent 18 years in the corporate finance division of Deutsche Bank and is a qualified chartered accountant. She has held a number of non-executive board positions currently including the London Film Academy and DV8, a media studies college. She was previously chair of governors of the West London Free School, and is currently a governor at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy in Brighton.

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Beth Ginsburg

Visiting Fellow, European University Institute

Beth Ginsburg founded Book Clubs in Schools with Alison Palmer in 2014 and was a Co-director for 8 years. She is now a Visiting Fellow at the European University Institute in Italy. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience leading projects on the socio-economic inclusion of refugees and migrants in Europe, for Migration Policy Group (MPG), the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the corporate sector.


Victoria Gray

Executive Director, Give a Book

Victoria Gray is the Executive Director of the charity Give a Book and is a Trustee of the Hawthornden Literary Retreat. In 2011, she founded Give a Book, which promotes books and the pleasure of reading in the hardest places such as prisons and with disadvantaged children and young people through the UK.


Alison Lambert

SVP Head of European Finance for Oxford Properties

Alison is a senior real estate executive in her position as SVP Head of European Finance for Oxford Properties. Alison is an active proponent of improving and promoting inclusion and diversity within the real estate industry. Alison is a champion of local causes and as such is the Treasurer of BCiS.


Rich Parkin

Partner, Arthur D. Little

Rich Parkin has spent the last 20 years advising organisations on strategy and transformation, as a partner at Booz & Company and now Arthur D. Little. As a Trustee he is focused on strategy and outcome measurement.


Tony Smith

Global Head of Market Activation, Customer Experience, Ipsos

Tony Smith works for global marketing insights firm Ipsos. He is Global Head of Market Activation for the Customer Experience practice, advising clients around the world on how to deliver best in class service. As a BCiS trustee he advises on strategic direction, planning and operational issues.