Friday, 24 May 2013

Patron Of Reading

I'm delighted to say that I've been added to the list of authors who are already a Patron of Reading - or who are keen to become Patrons of Reading. In case you're wondering just what a Patron of Reading is... Read on...

Background History - A few years ago Tim Redgrave, then the deputy head at Ysgol Esgob Morgan Juniors in St Asaph, Denbighshire, took his Y6 class to St Asaph Library to hear the wonderful Helena Pielichaty give a talk as part of Denbighshire Libraries Book Week. As always, Helena's session went down a storm and she made a huge impression, not only on the children, but also on Tim. He never forgot the impact the visit had and towards the end of 2010, Helena received an email from Tim, now headteacher at the school, telling her that he’d had this idea for promoting and nurturing a love of reading. How about every school having a patron of reading? He wanted to know if Helena thought that it was a good idea and if so, would she be his school’s first patron? Of course Helena said yes. 

What is a patron of reading? - A Patron of Reading is children's author that forms a personal attachment to, and works closely with, one school over a period of time (perhaps three years) to raise the profile of reading for pleasure with pupils, staff and parents.

What does a patron of reading do? - There are lots of things that a Patron of Reading can do, and this may vary from author to author, but here's a few suggestions from Tim and Helena...

  • Visit the school (at least once a year) to maintain a physical contact.
  • Write to the school to share news of books and what's happening.
  • Link the school to the author website and have a designated section where children can leave comments or add writing and reviews.
  • Send signed copies of books for the school library.
  • Encourage individual pupils via email or Skype etc if they've achieved something special relating to reading or writing (made significant progress/won a competition/ been selected for a writing squad etc).
  • Work in school with pupils on their own writing as Writer in Residence.
  • Give out prizes.
  • Encourage school to take part in the Summer Reading Challenge and other book related activities.
  • Support staff and parents in new literacy endeavours.
  • Share ideas about books to read with staff and pupils.

What does the school do? - This can vary from school to school but here are some suggestions...

  • Booked the author for school visits.
  • Put a link to the authors website and blog on the school website and in school newsletter.
  • Include information about the author on the school website and in the school newsletter.
  • Have a display about the author, their writing and their books, in the school library.
  • Send stories, poems and pictures that some of the classes have produced (some of these could be put on the authors website).
  • Hold a fun book quiz that could include, parents, governors, teachers, teaching assistants and pupils. 
  • Interact with the author by comments on blogs (parents can interact in this way too).
  • Use social networking sites such as Twitter to spread the word about the role of the Patron of Reading.
  • Involve the local press to further spread the word of Patrons of Reading and show what the school is doing to encourage reading for pleasure.
Financial cost to the school - The school would be expected to pay for any visit the POR makes in the usual way.  A visit at least once a year is advisable so each class builds up a relationship with the patron.

For more information - take a look at the Patron of Reading website by clicking here, visit Helena Pielichaty's POR page by clicking here, or visit the POR page on Ysgol Esgob Morgan's website by clicking here.

If you're interested in having me as your Patron of Reading - give me a shout.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

School Visits and Patron of Reading

This has been a busy week with lots of writing and a couple of school visits. On Sunday Vicky was at the Northop College Fun Day doing some Rhymetime sessions with parents and toddlers - I went along to have a look round and to see how Vicky was getting on... she was brilliant. It's always good watching and listening to other people tell stories.

On Monday it was my turn to share stories and rhymes so I drove a little further along the coast to Prestatyn where I spent a wonderful morning with all the Juniors at  Bodnant Community School - they were great... all very enthusiastic - joining in with stories and asking lots of great questions. In the afternoon I drove a little bit further along the road and spent the afternoon with the equally wonderful Infant classes.

Leaving the Junior School, after talking about my Mudcrust Books (among other things), I couldn't help notice this really cool frieze on the wall. It would look right at home on the Mudcrust's cave wall.

Yesterday I visited Wood Memorial Primary School in Saltney... It was nice visiting the school again, especially as it was whilst visiting that school three years ago that I met my lovely wife, Vicky. 

The day started with a whole school assembly - luckily I managed to avoid the fire breathing dragon that was swooping around above my head...
Then I spent half an hour or so with Reception and Nursery before moving off to visit all the other classes in school... Great fun!!!
A big thank you to all of the teachers and pupils of Bodnant Community School and Wood Memorial in Saltney for making me feel so welcome - see you all again soon...
I've got a few more school visits coming up in the next few weeks but I'll tell you all about those nearer the time. I'm now taking bookings for visits for the next school year. I'm already booked up for World Book Day 2014 but have other dates available around that time... I'm also very excited to have joined the list of authors who are eager to become a Patron of Reading in school - you can click HERE to find out more about the Patrons of Reading and you can also find out more by looking at my diary tomorrow as I will write more about it then.

Friday, 10 May 2013


I've just written a blog post for the wonderful An Awfully Big Blog Adventure - a great blog full of excellent posts by brilliant writers - go over there and take a look now. I've also posted the same post here for you to look at. Big, big thanks to my wife, Vicky, for her help with this blog post...

In schools I talk and share stories with children from Nursery up to year 6 - older if asked to but the primary school age children are my main audience. If I had to pick a favourite age group I would probably opt for years 3 and 4 - they are old enough to join in and ask good questions but they are still young enough not to be too self conscious as some older children can occasionally be. I enjoy storytelling with the younger children too of course and am always keen to spend a little time with the Nursery children - they too are usually fun and keen to join in in their own way. Sometimes the Nursery classes are left out of sessions because they are "too young" or "won't sit for long enough" and that's a great shame as in my experience they almost always sit still and they love to join in. I am, however, a little more uncomfortable doing sessions with children younger than Nursery and I shouldn't be as it is so important to do so. 

My wife, Vicky, spends quite a lot of time in libraries leading Rhymetime sessions with groups of toddlers and I have the utmost respect for her and for her ability to do this successfully because it's never too early to start reading and sharing books and rhymes with babies. As part of her work Vicky has researched the effects of reading to babies and going through it with her has been very interesting.

When a child is born only 25% of the brain is developed so what happens from this point onwards is crucial to a child’s development. By the age of 5, 95% of a child’s spoken language has been acquired though talking, playing and singing songs and rhymes.  Children who are regularly told rhymes and songs learn to speak more easily, are more confident and will find it easier to learn at school.

Repetition, repetition, repetition….  This is the key to teaching children words and rhymes, and by doing this their learning and development are enhanced in many ways. When a child hears nursery rhymes they are learning how sounds are put together without even realising it. The rhythm of the rhymes and the tone of your voice mean that even before a baby can understand what is being said they recognise the patterns and inflections of language. By speaking rhymes as well as singing them, a child’s pronunciation and mouth muscles along with their knowledge of vocabulary are developed.

Reading rhymes from a book is another way a child can enjoy learning.  It can spark a child’s interest in reading as they will enjoy the close bond of sitting together looking at the pictures and hearing their loved one read to them.

Children who attend Rhymetime sessions regularly as babies become used to the rhymes and, even before they can actually speak, they often move their mouths and hands to imitate the rhymes that are being shared.  At first, the babies adopt the actions and then add the words as they develop. Rhymes are a fun way for a child to learn and because they are short the child is able to pay full attention and will be able to memorise them, thus improving long and short term memory. During Rhymetime sessions the use of props is an important tool as it can aid understanding and keep a child’s attention, which in turn will make them enjoy the rhyme all the more. Finger rhymes are also important as they help with a child’s physical co-ordination. A rhyme such as ‘5 little ducks’ not only has actions but it teaches maths skills too. Rhymetimes are useful for social development as they are a safe, fun environment and the babies will enjoy ‘babbling’ together and the toddlers learn to share puppets, musical instruments and books whilst singing songs and rhymes.   
The Pop Up version of Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees's Giraffe's Can't Dance, Nick Sharrat's Shark In The Park and Debbie Harter's Animal Boogie are current favourites... I'm going to add a web page to my website shortly with details of some of our favourite books...

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

A Quick Hello!!! and what am I up to???

Today I'm busy working on a bigger book... bigger and longer than the ones that I've written before anyway...

I'm having lots of fun writing it but having a bit of trouble too... the characters are all keen to tell their bits of the story and are all keen to let the reader know all about them. The thing is - I'm supposed to be the one writing this story - not the characters themselves... so I'm having to work hard to get them all to keep quiet and wait their turn. They will all get a chance to let the reader know about themselves and they will all get a chance to tell the reader their side of what is going on... and there is a lot of stuff going on in this story.... PHEW!!!

There... that's what I'm up to at the moment - writing a longer story than normal...

And here's the quick hello....

HELLO to everyone in Miss Walker's class at St Anne's CE Primary School in Woodplumpton... I'm looking forward to hearing from you all soon...