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  1. POR_horizontal_lockup_800x300_black

    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.


    por conferencesmall

    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!




  2. If, like me, you enjoyed reading mystery stories such as Enid Blyton's Famous Five and Secret Seven and the Nancy Drew series you'll be pleased to hear that, according to a newspaper article I've just read, the trend apparently is going back towards traditional storytelling and the sort of books we liked to read as children are back in vogue.

    This does seem to be the case, several of the books nominated for the Waterstones Children's Book Prize are mystery-based stories such as Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens (5-12 age group) and Smart by Kim Slater in the Teen group. Of course, the theme's been given a fresh angle and modern mystery stories deal with topical issues. Smart for example investigates the death of a homeless man  and  although Murder Most Unladylike is set in a traditional boarding school and investigates the murder of a teacher it explores topics such as racism and same-sex relationships. All very modern.

    Nostalgia has been popular for some time now. Items that my children played with such as Furbies, Pokemon cards and Tamagotchis are fetching incredible prices. Many toys such as Furbies, and even traditional toys from my childhood, have made a come back - modernised, of course.
    I think the reason for this is because in our fast-paced, twenty four hour, high pressure society many people long for the simplicity of the past when children played in the streets with hooplas, footballs and skipping ropes or wandered the fields looking for adventures.  Nowadays most parents don't think it's safe to let their children out of their sight so most children are cooped up indoors playing on Ipads and computers. Small wonder that many people feel quite nostalgic about the past.

    Mystery stories have always been popular, of course. A few years ago I wrote a detective series called The Amy Carter Mysteries for Top That Publishing.
    They're quite popular with children in schools I visit and it's tempting to jump on the nostalgia bandwagon and write another detective series reminiscent of Enid Blyton's popular tales. With my luck though by the time I'd finished it the trend would have moved on and something else would be 'in vogue'. And guessing what the next Big Thing will be is pretty impossible.

    What do you think? Is Nostalgia here to stay?
    (This blog also appears on An Awfully Big Blog Adventure)