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How Philip Caveney introduced the Patron of Reading idea to his school

Posted by [email protected] on May 13, 2014 at 2:15 PM


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,

Philip Caveney

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