School Readers

Helen Thew, school Book Club doyenne!

Consilium Education library specialist, Sal Flint continues her column – School Readers – in which she talks to educators about their favourite books. This month’s Reader is Helen Thew.

Why ‘School Readers’?

We all urge kids to read, but how has reading shaped our own personal and professional lives? I want to know which four books have most influenced the people I talk to – an unforgettable children’s book, a novel, a work of non-fiction and a ‘go-to’ book about education.

This month’s School Reader is Helen Thew. Originally from Wales, Helen studied Biochemistry at Birmingham University, achieving a BSc. (Hons) and her PGCE. She completed her Masters of Education at Bath University.

During her 30 years teaching career, Helen has taught Biology in the UK, was Head of Biology and Key Stage 4 at the British International School in Rome and also the Head of Sixth Form at the British School in the Netherlands. Helen joined Bangkok Patana School in August 2005 in the role of Secondary Assistant Principal, Student Welfare before taking on the Cross Campus Principal in August 2018. In August 2024 Helen will start her new role as the Secondary Principal of South Island School in Hong Kong.

It was great fun catching up with my good friend Helen. Not only was she a wonderful role model and leader to me, whilst I was at Bangkok Patana School, but as you’ll see she was also a much-loved member of the book club, that for many years I was part of. Book clubs hold the very best type of meetings! Sadly, these days I only get to join the book club occasionally via Zoom, but I still like to consider myself an honorary member!

Helen Thew’s four books

(Click the book cover to follow the link to Amazon)

1. Bonnie Garmus: Lessons in Chemistry

“At my book club I enjoy that we read a variety of different genres. We have had some excellent discussions on The Great Circle by Maggie Shipstead, Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal, Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee and The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Dare. They’ve all been fascinating reads. I’d have to say that my most favourite recent read was Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. I loved Lessons in Chemistry for its originality and vibrant storytelling. It took me on a journey from sadness to laugh out loud moments. I appreciated the thought-provoking narratives that challenged societal norms. In particular, I loved Elizabeth Zott, who is a brilliantly portrayed character who defies stereotypes.”

What it’s about:

Lessons in Chemistry follows the story of Elizabeth Zott, a brilliant chemist who is forced to become a television chef in the 1960s when she finds herself a young, single mother. The novel explores themes of feminism, science and love with both humour and insight.


2. Emma Slade: Set Free

“I love travel and very much enjoy reading books about places I have been to or am going to go to. Having hiked with a group of Year 12 students to Base Camp Everest for their Gold Duke of Edinburgh International Award I have read many books about events that have taken place on Everest. This year I am going to Bhutan for the first time so am currently reading any book that can tell me more about the country. I found Set Free a beautiful read and loved the more peaceful way of living that Emma Slade found in Bhutan.”

What it’s about:

Set Free tells of Emma Slade’s life-changing journey from banking in Hong Kong to Buddhism in Bhutan. Emma was a high-flying debt analyst for a large investment bank, when she was taken hostage in a hotel room on a business trip to Jakarta. Realising her view on life had profoundly changed she embarked upon a journey, discovering the healing power of yoga.


3. Brene Brown: Dare to Lead

“I have lost count of how many times I have watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on the ‘Power of Vulnerability’ or used her video on ‘Empathy’ with my students, staff and parents. Dare to Lead came out in 2018 the same year that I took on the Cross Campus Principal role at Bangkok Patana School. Her message – that when we dare to lead, we don’t pretend to have all the answers but instead stay curious and ask the right questions – helped guide me through my first year as a Principal.”

What it’s about:

Dare to Lead is a text that discusses the qualities of leadership. These qualities are presented as vulnerability, values, trust, and resilience. Brown comments on how these qualities can either become engrained within the ethos of an organization, or alternately can be driven out.


4. Spencer Johnson: Who Moved My Cheese

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is a picture book that introduces children to the concept of change as a positive force leading to new opportunities. This book can be read by readers of all ages and can help open a dialogue about any change in your life. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to make a change in their life.”

What it’s about:

Who Moved My Cheese? follows the story of the four characters Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw who make their way through a maze looking for cheese that makes them happy. It seems like the cheese will last forever until one morning the cheese isn’t where it is expected to be. The story follows how the different characters respond to the change in their circumstances.


What Helen is reading at the moment:

Fiction: Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Non Fiction: The Song of Significance by Seth Godin


Sal Flint is a Senior Consultant specialising in school library development at Consilium Education.

If you would like to share your four School Readers, write to ITM on




FEATURE IMAGE: by Lubos Houska from Pixabay