|Posted by [email protected] on May 15, 2017 at 4:20 PM||comments (0)|
How did I become a Patron of Reading?
The Patron of Reading initiative started five years ago but I’m very new to it. I began my patronage for Albany Junior School, Nottinghamshire in late February this year. Having provided a workshop for the school back in November, Laura Goffin (Assistant Head/SENDCO and English Lead) and Lauren Richards, invited me back to discuss what else I could offer the school. I went prepared to sell myself and point out the benefits of an author visit, but to my surprise and absolute pleasure, they asked me if I would be interested in becoming their PoR.
At the time I knew nothing about PoR and so Lauren and Laura went on to tell me all about The Two Steves, Tim Redgrave, and how they had heard all about PoR on a course they had attended. They were very enthusiastic about the initiative and believed in the benefits that it could bring to their children. Reading was a priority on their School Improvement Plan and having already made good progress on most of their action points, a PoR would be the icing on the cake.
That night I went home and looked at the PoR website, the one belonging to The Two Steves and a handful of other authors who were involved, so I could find out everything I could. What particularly drew me to PoR was that because it’s not Government led, it has no hidden agenda and is purely about developing a love of reading. This means that each PoR can develop the role in a way that suits her or his strengths and skills as well as meeting the school’s needs.
What have I done in the first two and a half months?
We announced that I would be Albany’s PoR in the whole school assembly that I led on my Book Week visit on Monday 27th February. During the day I worked with all the classes carrying out writing workshops (this was booked before I became PoR, hence the writing focus). Each pair of classes in each year band worked with me to create plots for myths or legends from various historical cultures and time periods.
I returned to Albany in the evening of World Book Day, 3rd March, to read a “bedtime story” that I’d written especially for the event. I also ran a quiz with prizes of my own books and some of the £1 World Book Day books. This was a ticketed event (it was free, the ticket was to cap numbers for health and safety reasons) with over 100 tickets being taken up. In hindsight calling it a “bedtime story” may have put off some of the Year 6 children, but the event was very well attended and had excellent feedback at the following Parents’ Forum. To make it feel homely, the hall floor was covered in PE mats, which were in turn covered with children, cuddly toys and blankets. The evening was a great success. The quiz certainly brought out many of the parent’s competitive streaks.
A week or so later Lauren contacted me to inform me that the school’s Friends Association (who have part-funded my patronage) wondered if I could get the bedtime story made into a book so they could buy each family a copy. I agreed instantly, but pointed out it would need a cover and illustrations. On 26th May the school and I will be dedicating the final day of half term to creating those pictures.
First Official Visit
I was thrown in the deep end for my first “contracted” visit. I spent the morning working with Years 3 and 4 developing some Tall Tales which they created and performed in small groups. The emphasis was on storytelling but all the staff saw the value of this as a tool for generating ideas for stories as well as the value of orally practising the “text”. I will be repeating this with Year 5 and 6 in July.
In the afternoon I ran a workshop for parents alongside Laura Goffin, the driving force behind my appointment as PoR. After she had delivered the information about the Albany approach to reading and the reward systems and provision put in place, I led a discussion on the importance of parents’ role in reading to, and with, their child, as well as listening to their child. Part of this focused on future wellbeing and the impact the ability to read and the love of reading has on life choices and opportunities. Further workshops with parents are planned as well as other ideas to get them reading for pleasure.
Other Bits and Bobs
We are fortunate that I only live twenty minutes away from Albany. So far I have been in three times for “volunteer” or impromptu days. The first was to put up my PoR display. On that day, I also ate lunch with the “Merit” children, who had been chosen by their teacher for good work, behaviour or attitudes.
I’ve been back two more times. Neither of these visits were intended for me to work directly with the children, they were simply so I could be a visible presence while working on my WIP. It was lovely because children and staff said hello as they visited the library or walked past me. As well as eating lunch with the children again, I also went out on the playground and chatted about books and anything else that was important to them, including bottle flipping. That night I appeared on Notts TV and was challenged by Ian Chambers, the host of Notts Tonight, to do a bottle flip. I gave Albany a shoutout, dedicated the flip to them and… succeeded. Luckily!
On another of my drop in visits, three Year 6 girls interviewed me, recording it on an iPad.
I have, of course, donated copies of my own books to the school as well as donating books by other authors, which I have read, reviewed and recommended.
In time for the Easter holiday, I produced a newsletter which included a competition and exclusive news. This runs alongside a “secret section” on my website that only Albany have access too. Like the newsletter, it had competitions, exclusive news, as well as forums to discuss books and to ask me questions. This is still in its infancy.
My next official visit is on June 20th when I will work with year 3 to create a story for them to share with the year 2s when they come over from the infants school as part of their transition day. My final visit for this academic year will be in July when I will work with Years 5 and 6.
We plan to have a summer barbeque where I will read another short story. I will also be at the school’s summer fayre.
I think I’ve packed in quite a lot so far and I plan to continue my semi-regular visits. My aim is to become a friend to the school and a familiar face. My only concern is that rather than making the relationship closer and stronger, it may make it less of an event. If you have any opinions feel free to let me know. One thing I know for sure, the six weeks holiday will seem like a long time before I am welcomed back again.
All in all, it’s been a busy couple of months, and I’m enjoying every minute.
|Posted by [email protected] on June 16, 2015 at 3:45 PM||comments (1)|
Author events usually consists of authors reading to students, talking about their work or running workshops but Linda Bromyard, the librarian at my POR School, Blessed Edward Oldcorne Catholic College runs an annual Living Library which I am delighted to support. Linda tells the students that normally they come into the library and find books laid out on the tables, but for the Living Library they get the chance to talk to real authors about books, and a mix of authors at that. The event this year was held on 5 May and there were children's authors, Indie authors, romance authors and poets. Here's a photo of the cast this.
The event session always takes place in the school library and local authors from all genres are invited. We authors are all allocated a table each, on which we arrange our books, bookmarks, tip sheets, etc. Then the students work their way around the room, in groups of four. Each group is allowed ten minutes to talk to an author then they move onto the next table
It’s a fascinating way for the students to learn about different types of writing, to talk to a few authors in the space of one morning, to ask any questions they have and to discuss their own reading and writing. And just in case they can’t think of any questions, Linda supplies a list they can refer to if they want to. As an author, I always enjoy the experience of talking to small groups of children as opposed to a large class. It’s also a great way to network with other local authors and the coffee and chocolate biscuits Linda provides in the break are very welcome.
A good time was had by all and look at the fantastic feedback from the students.
|Posted by [email protected] on February 28, 2015 at 10:45 AM||comments (1)|
The second Patron of Reading conference took place at The Art Workers' Guild in London on Saturday 21st February 2015. It was opened by Tim Redgrave and Helena Pielichaty, whose opening message was that all schools are different, and therefore all school and patron relationships are different. There's no right way to be a Patron of Reading! Tim talked about how important it is for schools to move away from the 'reading for a test’ culture and how working with a patron can help that. He finished a quote from a child in his school, who said 'Without a patron I might read five books. With a patron I might read...well, more than five.' Helena ended with two pieces of practical advice: Schools, always value your patron, and patrons, don't overwhelm your schools with ideas because they'll never have the capacity to implement them all! She also emphasised that being a Patron of Reading was one of the best experiences of her writing career.
The first session consisted of talks by Alan Macdonald (author), Josh Seigal (poet), Gillian Cross (author) and Mandy Wilson (librarian) about how they viewed the role of the patron.
Alan talked about the importance of schools with engaging with authors. He suggested that when an author is approached by a school, they should ask them a few questions. The questions could include: Why do you want a patron? Why am I the right patron for you? In practical terms, what do you want to achieve from having a patron? He talked about how his role is having a huge impact on the children of his school, but also about how it had expanded into a much bigger role than had he first thought. It is important to move away from a 'standard' author visit and try to make every visit different. Involving parents is a key to success, but the most important advice was to make reading fun! The head of his school said 'We haven't had a moment's regret about having a Patron of Reading.'
Gillian shared her experiences of being a patron in two schools. She talked about how different the schools were and what a great opportunity it was for the schools to collaborate and broaden the children's experiences. She suggested that schools work together to shadow book awards and that a blog could be set up between the schools, allowing the students to communicate and share book recommendations. The schools could also take encouragement from each other's commitment to reading and feel that they are part of a bigger reading community. If an author wants to be a patron of more than one school, they should try and aim for two different types of school.
After performing a wonderful poem called Don't Call Out!, Josh spoke about his patron experiences in two different schools. He then talked more specifically about how he has used his skills as a poet in his role and what advice he would offer to other poet patrons:
• Performance- With poetry, the written poem is only half the job. It only really comes alive when it is performed!
• Participation- All children can succeed at reading and writing poetry. A love of poetry can lead to a love of all literacy.
• Possibility- Poetry can have an impact on any reader at any age. There are no limits...
Mandy finished the opening session by talking about the initiative through the eyes of a librarian. She shared the experiences that her school had had with their patron (the graphic novelists Metaphrog) and how it had changed the reading culture in the school. She offered practical advice on choosing a patron and making sure that they are the right 'fit' for the school, and how important it was for the relationship to keep evolving. She emphasised that one of the most important aspects of a successful relationship was the support of the headteacher and the leadership team. Mandy then talked about the value of the patrons having one main point of contact in the school, and how the feedback of pupils was crucial in planning future sessions.
This session was led by three authors who were all relatively new patrons, Jo Cotterill, Julia Suzuki and Julia Grant.
Jo opened by talking about how that school had chosen her because she already had a relationship with them. She then listed a long list of ideas that she and the school had generated at the start of the year (book recommendations, displays, Patron of Reading prize, etc) but then admitted that due to time issues and the constraints of the school curriculum, they hadn’t all been implemented. It is crucially important for schools and patrons to manage their expectations at the start of their relationship.
Julia Suzuki has recently been appointed as Patron of Reading at one of her old schools. She spoke about authors being an inspiration to children and shared some of the different areas that she had worked in at the school (supporting gifted & talented pupils, working with children who have English as an additional language, etc). Julia felt was important for each visit to have a structure and a clear objective in order to have the maximum impact.
Julia Green had heard about the initiative at a conference hosted by the Bristol SLS. She had been approached by a librarian and then produced a document for the school to show what she felt could be achieved. She had three main objectives:
• To give reading a higher profile in the school, both with students and staff.
• To turn non-readers into readers.
• To give passionate readers the chance to meet and engage with each other.
She planned to get all staff on board with the idea but it hadn’t quite happened as yet. Julia’s key message was to let the school lead and set the pace.
After lunch, Denyse Kirkby talked passionately about some of the whole school reading challenges that she has successfully introduced into her patron school and what being a Patron of Reading meant to her. She was followed by a workshop where patrons and schools went off into groups to share ideas and tips for having a Patron of Reading. These suggestions can be found in the ‘News’ section of the Patron of Reading website.
The final main session of the day was chaired by Prue Goodwin. She introduced three speakers, Anne Sarrag from the Reading Agency, Miranda McKearney from the Empathy Lab and Ian Coles from the Big Green Bookshop.
Anne gave a brief overview of the work of the Reading Agency and what they are doing in order to encourage children to read for pleasure. The evidence from the UKLA supports the idea that the Summer Reading Challenge helps prevent the ‘summer dip’ in children’s reading ability. She talked about the importance of schools and patrons working together, and suggested that the Patron of Reading could help give the SRC a much higher profile in schools. It is important for patrons to try and engage with parents at a school, and perhaps a letter home from the patron and the opportunity to engage via social media would help with this.
Ian and the Big Green Bookshop are responsible for setting up the first local ‘chapter’ of patrons in Haringey. Although this is in its very early stages, he explained how all of the local authors and schools had engaged with it so far. They were planning to meet a couple of times a year in order to share good practice and work together to create a resource bank that could be used by all schools and patrons. He talked about how many parents come into the BGB with their children talking about how much they enjoyed author visits and how much they inspired them to read. If a one-off visit could create so much enthusiasm for reading, then how much more could a Patron of Reading create?
The final speaker of the day was Miranda McKearney who was talking about the Empathy Lab. She spoke about how words and stories can have so much power to build empathy in children and about how authors are often the ultimate empathy agents. Through their writing, an author can model to a child that it is absolutely fine to talk about their feelings in an open way. She talked about research that shows how reading fiction can improve the brain’s capacity for empathy and what a crucial role schools and patrons can play in this area of a child’s development.
Helena finished the day by reiterating what a pleasure it had been to be involved with the initiative and how important it was to gear the whole Patron of Reading experience towards reading for pleasure. Real reading is reading for pleasure! There was a brief discussion about whether it would be of value to hold another conference next year or whether smaller regional meetings would be more productive (no firm conclusion was reached!).
The conference closed with final thanks from Helena Pielichaty, Tim Redgrave, Jon Biddle and Denyse Kirkby.
|Posted by [email protected] on May 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM||comments (0)|
A MESSAGE FROM OUR PATRON OF READING
I’d like to tell you a little bit about the Patron of Reading scheme. I was enthusiastic about the idea from the very first moment I heard of it. Published authors were invited to add their names to a waiting list, which would be made available to schools around the area where they lived. If chosen, the writer would be expected to work very closely with a particular school. His or her books would be read, studied and quite possibly criticised. The idea was to get students enthusiastic about reading and to show them that writers were just people who started out as readers - and went that bit further.
So I put my name on the list and settled down to wait. It felt a bit like being a product on eBay. You didn’t know which school would choose you or when or even why – but whoever got there first would have you exclusively as their Patron. Oh sure, you could visit any number of other schools (I still do!) but only one could enjoy your official patronage, which meant basically that this was the institution you would go the extra mile for. You would visit often. You would answer questions. You would judge competitions. And you would write blogs. (Just like this one).
For a day or so, nothing happened and I started to worry. What if nobody wanted me as a patron? What if secretly people hated my books and would do anything to avoid having me visit them on a regular basis? Luckily, this turned out to be just writers’ paranoia. A lady called Britta Leonard, the librarian at Wentworh High School in Eccles, sent me a lovely email, saying she’d read all about the scheme and thought it sounded great. Would I consider being the Patron of Reading for Wentworth High? Would I? Of course I would!
I proudly announced the news of this new post to my friends on Facebook, whereupon there was some confusion. One or two people thought I was now the Patron of the town, Reading (pronounced Redding) while others got a bit mixed up and thought I’d said I was the Patron Saint of Reading, which let’s face it would be a pretty lofty role for anybody to live up to!
Strangely, once I was chosen, offers came in from other schools, but Britta was quickest on the draw and a date for my first visit was duly set. Now, let me share a secret with you. I love visiting schools. I love talking to students and telling them how I first got inspired to write when I was their age and, most of all, I LOVE proving to students who think they could never write fiction that they actually can and, what’s more, are surprised at how good they are when they give it a go. All it takes is a little encouragement.
So I turned up for the first session. I did my talk, I ran a series of workshops and almost before I knew it, the day was over. Everybody who took part worked their socks off and some truly fabulous writing was produced. Go Wentworth! Another two visits are already planned, one in February and one in March, aptly enough in World Book Week. WBW is always the busiest time in a writer’s calendar because that’s the week when every school in the UK decides that they must have a writer visit their school. But once again, Wentworth got there first. Nice one Britta!
Looking further ahead, I’m also excited about visiting the brand new Wentworth School, which is currently taking shape just across the field from its current location and should be completed later this year.
The creation of a new school is always an exciting time for staff and pupils alike, when everything that is familiar goes out of the window and a whole new set of challenges arises. From what I’ve seen of the new building, I believe it’s going to be a school to be proud of and I’m looking forward to being involved.
So, with that thought firmly in mind, I’ll get back to the story I’m currently writing. It’s about a ventriloquist’s dummy who thinks he’s a real boy. And you know what? He actually might be... Stay tuned. It’ll probably see the light of day some time in 2015.
All the best,
|Posted by [email protected] on March 25, 2014 at 4:30 PM||comments (0)|
This article originally appeared in Teen Librarian Monthly, March 2014:
During half term I went to the first Patron of Reading Conference held at the Society of Authors in Kensington, with my own PoR, Sita Brahmachari. It was a brilliant day.
I first heard of the PoR scheme last year, and thought it would be an excellent idea to have a “special, designated children's author with whom the school forms a personal attachment”. You can see full details on the website www.patronofreading.co.uk, but I’d just like to share a few things that Sita and Fortismere have done since last September to whet your appetite.
She’s run three workshops based around her books for Years 7 (Artichoke Hearts), 8 (Jasmine Skies) and 9 (Kite Spirit). She attended our Year 7 Poetry Festival and chatted to students and their parents, and our Breakfast Club Christmas party - getting here at the unearthly hour of 7.45 am to present certificates to our less able readers. On World Book Day, Sita did 10 minute visits to as many English classes as possible to chat about the wonders of reading and to promote the WBD competition that she devised. This is a “literary menu” with a starter of a great first line, a main course of a recommended novel and a sweet treat of eg. a song lyric, a famous quotation…She will be judging these before they are laminated and left around the school for other students to “taste”. And we have filmed Sita talking about books and reading – this can be shown in assemblies, tutor time and linked to our website for parents to watch.
We have lots more plans. Sita would like to shadow a Year 7 class throughout the school until they reach Year 11. We are also hoping to involve some of our students in the filming of the book trailer for her next book, “Red Leaves”. We were inspired by the multitude of ideas that other authors had when we met them during the conference. And we love the fact that the students here feel a sense of “ownership” – they have their own author that they recognise and who knows them.
Sita lives locally to Fortismere – this works very well for us. But many schools’ Patrons are from further afield, some even live in other countries! They link up with blogs, emails, Skype, videos – and every one of them is dedicated and passionate about encouraging the students in the schools they work with to love reading and books. But I am amazed that there are plenty of authors who want to be PoRs, but cannot find a school to work with. I knew Sita from previous visits to the library and approached her direct. If you can’t do this, on the website you will see plenty of “homeless” authors who are looking for someone just like you to adopt them and work with them. Honestly, every school should have one!
Gill Ward, Senior Librarian, Fortismere School, Muswell Hill, London N10
|Posted by Dee on March 5, 2014 at 5:05 PM||comments (1)|
After the (most enjoyable) inaugural Patron of Reading conference I wrote to the local Councillor who is the Cabinet Member for Education and Children to update him on the conference and future plans. Included in the conference feedback was the fact that the patron of reading initiative / movement/ innovation / service has already been discussed in Scotish Parliament, and that I thought it should also get the same recognition in England.
After asking for his support with introducing the patron of reading initiative in English Parliament I closed the update reminding him that fostering a love of reading is so powerful in a child's life that the benefits are almost immeasurable.
The councillor’s response was fast and favourable – he said that if we could give him a ghost letter then he would “write to our local MPs, David Laws, Michael Gove and others binging attention to this worthy cause”. I ran dry at this point but Jon Biddle has kindly agreed to draft something up…just as soon as he has time to sit still long enough to do so. I think that if enough of us wrote to councilors with the same info, and they in turn passed the info onto MPs, then it wouldn’t be long before the patron of reading innovation was getting the recognition it deserves in English Parliament.
|Posted by Dee on February 16, 2014 at 3:50 AM||comments (1)|
Are you wondering what goes on in a patron of reading session? Well, we all do different things but here is a peek at the highlights of my last patron of reading session:
First - a whole school assembly to celebrate the reading achievements so far:
Then we headed to the library (which I had turned into a water safari) to explore a different dimension to the book we are currently reading (Raffie Island) where the characters have to swim from the underwater portal to the island. We had to avoid getting stung by jelly fish, swim under planks of a rotting ship without touching them (or they would break and trap us under water) and through seaweed until we got to the safety of the cave in the far corner of the room (top right of photo) where we could read whatever we wanted. Although I had designed this activity to work on reader's comprehension and processing of what we are reading, this activity proved very popular not only with the students but also some of the teachers were very keen to try to successfully get through the challenges of the water safari.
Gypsie (one of the peer reading champions) showed me a behaviour / reward system she had designed to use during her weekly PoWR sessions where she and another peer champion support a group of eight younger students through a guided reading session. There are eight peer champions (two for each of the four groups of eight) and they all design their own ways of encouraging good behaviour.
Last but not least, Jack (another peer reading champion) showed me a story he had begun writing about a very unusual superhero. We had a long talk about where he wants to go with the plot of his story and about what order he might do this in. I am looking forward to seeing how much Jack gets written during half term!
I haven't been able to upload the photos to this post but you can see them all on my website - click here for the water safari, here to see Gypsie's behaviour system and here to see Jack and his story so far.
|Posted by [email protected] on January 31, 2014 at 10:10 AM||comments (0)|
John Dougherty is our Patron of Reading. When he came to see us last week, it was the best day of the year. He sang silly songs and made our day much happier. It was a real treat for us to work with him as he made us laugh so much. We wanted his visit to last forever.
He came and did an assembly first of all and read us some of his new book which is called Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face and the Badness of Badgers. It was very funny. He then sang us some songs and talked to us about which books he liked. He told us a poem too but I can't remember that so well.
He then went to all the classes and talked to them about reading. He knows lots of famous authors like Helena Pieilichaty who is our class author of the term. He said he was very proud to be our Patron of Reading. When he was in 4JB he sang a song about pants. My face went red when he sang it.
The next day he did another funny assembly and sang a song about needing to go to the toilet. Some parents came to watch the assembly and they laughed at his songs too. He then said why everybody should read lots of books. He gave out prizes for the Spooky Story competition and also for the John Dougherty Reading Trophy. There were two winners, a girl from Year Three and a girl from Year Five. We had 150 people vote on who they thought should win it. Lots of the teachers nominated children too.
After that he did some selling books and signing them in the library. We could choose what colour pen we wanted him to use. When John had to leave it was an awful sight and we nearly cried because of it. We want him to come again soon.
Here are some quotes from some adults:
"It was a fantastic experience for the children to work with a real author. They loved it!" Mr Edge
"John Dougherty was the best author I have ever seen in a school!" Mr Arden
|Posted by [email protected] on January 27, 2014 at 3:40 PM||comments (0)|
Dr Patrick Ryan, the Patron of Reading at Bury St Edmunds County Upper School, ran a series of workshops for staff and students of schools in the Bury St Edmunds Academy Trust on Friday 24th January 2014. The Academy Trust links Barrow Primary, Horringer Court and Westley Middle schools with County Upper in order to offer a 4 to 19 education. Staff work together to ensure that the students receive a high quality of teaching throughout their education and this was the first event where English teachers from the schools had the opportunity to work together. The CPD workshops covered academic research relating to the development of literacy skills in young children as well as the benefits of using a variety of methods to inspire and improve creative thinking and writing in students.
Pat then led storytelling sessions with students from the Primary and Middle schools, immediately followed by sessions with Upper school students. These were enjoyed by all and it was interesting for staff to see the students working in a very different environment. After lunch the sixth formers from County Upper learned about the value of storytelling and, after demonstrations and guidance, practised their skills. The plan is for these sixth formers to work as leaders in paired and shared reading with students at County Upper and then to develop reading and storytelling sessions with the feeder schools. It is very early days yet but there will now be a Tuesday lunchtime session for sixth formers, overseen by Mrs Loughton and Ms Thomas from the English faculty, and a paired reading session during Thursday morning registration overseen by Mrs Loughton.
We hope that our continuing work with our Patron and our own interest in developing a wider variety of teaching and learning will prove to be a positive addition to all of the schools in the Academy Trust. Pat is an absolute inspiration and his outstanding skills with students as well as his wealth of research and knowledge related to developing literacy make us very glad that he has agreed to be our Patron of Reading.
|Posted by Dee on January 10, 2014 at 2:35 PM||comments (1)|
Well what a fantastic term it has been, and what a privilege it is to be the patron of reading for Beacon View Primary Academy! It is so lovely to see the increase in numbers of students who are enjoying reading in their own time. This term we have also enjoyed:
At the end of each term I hold an all school reading celebration assembly where we celbrate all the great things students have done in relation to reading. At the celebration assembly at the end of term one there were:
12 Super Star Readers – chosen for reading 3 times a week plus an additional reason such as: huge improvements with attitude to reading, always reading EVERY night, reading when on holiday, challenging themselves with book choice and showing a real commitment to their reading
83 Star Readers (almost double the amount since last half term) - awarded for reading at home three or more times per week
67 Star Book Borrowers (8 times more students borrowing library books compared to last half term!) - awarded for borrowing at least one school library book per week
8 Peer Reading Champions - awarded in recognition of the good work these Year Six students do with leading the PoWR reading groups in the weeks that I am not at the school.
There is now also the Paulsgrove Library Award, which is given each term to the child who has supported the local public library the most ( by book borrowing, attending activities and by their good behaviour in the library).
Well done to all the readers at Beacon View Primary Academy!