Patron of Reading

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My experience as a Patron of Reading by Gareth Baker

Posted by on May 15, 2017 at 4:20 PM

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?

Book Week

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.

What’s next?

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.

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