It’s not one-sided
It’s been a huge pleasure to see the Patron of Reading idea take off and fly. Schools clearly value having ongoing relationships with authors and there are lots of great stories about the results. But the benefits aren’t one-sided. Authors have a lot to gain as well.
I’ve enjoyed visiting schools for over thirty years, but until I became a PoR my visits were very brief. Yes, they were always carefully planned in advance. Yes, I learnt as much as possible about the school – and made sure to visit the library. But basically I parachuted in for a day, or a couple of days, was whisked round the building and rarely saw any pupil more than once.
Being a Patron of Reading is completely different. It’s meant working with talented teachers and librarians, over several years, and I’ve learnt a huge amount. One teacher has shown me the value of using movement and drama to build characters and develop empathy. (I’ll certainly be doing more of that.) In another school, I’ve seen how a librarian shares her excitement about books by supporting pupil-led reading groups, mounting stunning wall displays (my favourite was one about real and imaginary maps) and running exciting competitions for new pupils (who designed some amazing dream libraries). I wish all school governors could visit that library and see how a remarkable librarian keeps reading for pleasure at the heart of school life.
Because I’ve had time to become familiar with the buildings and grounds of my PoR schools, we’ve been able to run projects which use the school environment. In one school, we developed a word walk around the grounds. First we followed the route together, stopping at various points to listen to readings. Then we wrote a sequence of poems, drawing on the children’s observations. In another school, we did an extended outdoor project, based on one of my books, using readings, film clips, drama and videos. As a PoR, I was able to plan these projects jointly with teachers and librarians, taking the ideas further and making them more valuable.
I’ve also been invited to share special occasions, like Prize Day and talks by visiting speakers (Ian McKellen, Simon Armitage …), because a Patron isn’t just a visitor. Being PoR involves you in the life of the school community. And, for me, that’s the most rewarding thing of all.