On Saturday 21 February I travelled down to London, along with Linda Bromyard the librarian of my POR school, Blessed Edward Oldcorne College to attend the second Patron of Reading Conference. It was held at the wonderful Art Workers Guild building and I felt privileged to be in the company of such an eclectic and dedicated collection of authors, poets, storytellers and librarians all joined together in their desire to encourage children to read. Here we both are, holding the conference programme.
It was a lively, enjoyable and informative day. The Patron of Reading is a fairly new scheme where an author works with a designated school to encourage the pupils to read and many of the Guest speakers were Patrons of Reading themselves. You can find out more about the Patron of Reading Scheme here.
The more experienced patrons shared their advice, tips, and experiences with us whilst the still-newish ones shared their hopes and inspirations. As I'm only in my first year of being a Patron of Reading I found it incredibly useful - and was also reassured that Linda and I were going along the right track. The talks by Helena Pielichaty, the very first Patron of Reading, and Tim Redgrave, the headmaster of Helena's POR school were inspiring.Helena spoke eloquently about what it meant to her, as an author, to work so closely with a school, and Tim told us the difference he felt it had made to the pupils saying that 'they haven't had a moment's regret about getting involved in this while Helena said 'This is the thing of which I am most proud.'
What shone out from me that day was the passion and desire of all the participants to encourage children to read. And not just for education, but to read for fun. Miranda McKearney told us about the Empathy Lab and said that 'authors are the ultimate empathy agents'. While Prue Goodwin gave an impassioned speech about the importance of reading and creating stories, saying that 'before books there was always story.'
The message was clear, let's get children reading and encourage them to find something they actually like reading. Story books, picture books, comics, graphic novels, it didn't matter. What mattered was that the children enjoyed the books they were reading. An ethos both Linda and I share. We actively encourage children to write reviews of 'brilliant books' they've read and post them on my website, with prizes for the best review. You can see some of the reviews here.
If you don't have a Patron of Reading for your school, I urge you to get one. Similarly, if you're an author or poet and want to take part in the scheme go the POR page and put your name down here.
Let's all work together and get kids reading - for fun!