If you have ever read to a child and asked questions exploring the plot, character, drawings and how well they liked the story you will know of the magic moments shared by you both and the benefits of having those moments.
For those children who don't get read to at home on a regular basis this scheme goes some way to filling in that gap. Watching 13 and 14 year old children questioning and telling stories and questioning again reminds me very much of Debbie reading to our two daughters. That magic is still there between the reader and the whole class of children.
I really hope we can roll this out to other schools.
Third time now that I have watched 13 and 14 year old students from East Bergholt high school read stories to years one and two and ask questions about those stories "Did you like the main character?" and "What was the funniest bit?" and "Who was your favourite character and why?" and I am watching this interaction between the older children telling stories and the younger children listening to the stories and I am in awe of the strong and immediate connection between the story tellers and their listeners. They are having a conversation and both of the older and younger kids are learning so much!
Before tech children learned about the world from the stories they heard and were told. Before schools the only way of understanding the world at all was from the stories they were told.
We are missing a trick here. All of schooling is not about stories (examples and resolutions and choices in stories.) but it could be. I am beginning to think that we need to give story telling a lot more attention than just thinking of it as a sweet pastime.
World book day is here again and I shall be spending it entertaining and hopefully inspiring the children at the Iceni school in Colchester, It is always nice to be asked back several times to a school and the staff and pupils there are always so creative.
On this day we will be doing 'story bombing' and 'Two story to a story' Safari with acting out being Lions and Elephants (new part of the sessions) with story readings to the younger ones.
Today I watched (in some awe I must say) a 14 year old girl from East Bergholt High school read to 30 children in reception and then 30 children in year one and it was a truly magical moment!
The young lady concerned held the children enraptured by her story telling and hands up questions and answers afterwards.
Gavin oversaw another young lady do the same and so now those children have had 4 stories read to them that they may never have heard otherwise and the young ladies reading had an experience and growth in confidence that they may never otherwise have had. It's all win win at the moment!
If this continues to go as well as it does now then we can look at making it into a package that can be rolled out to the other 1,300 high schools across the country who also use the Pixl Edge scheme.
Amazingly I am at the final chapter of The Bag. Now some of you might say "That's taken a while" and you would be right. The first book took about eight months to write in 20 minute slot and was 175 pages long the second took longer and was 350 pages long or so. The Bag brings it all together and at the moment is about 450 pages but I'm nearly there!
I wonder which of the characters will be the first to die though?
Neil Gaiman is a legend and I quote "Writing a Novel is like driving through the fog with one headlight out, you can't see very far ahead of yourself but every now and again the mists will clear." This is the most profound statement on writing that I have ever heard. This is exactly what it is like when writing.
Wow what a day!
Today we kicked off the Story Gift Scheme that sees Year 9 Students from East Bergholt High school going into Primary schools and being rewarded through the Pixl edge scheme for reading stories to the whole classes of reception and Year 1.
It was awesome and I mean that I am in awe of the two boys who kicked off the whole scheme by reading to the nippers. Instead of being shy and slightly embarrassed by being faced with 30 odd small children at a time they ran with it and had a great time.
When asked if the children wanted more story time they erupted with 'yes pleases' and so the scheme has got off to a flying start.
After half term two more Year 9 children will go into the same school and read stories to the younger ones on a Wednesday.
The benefits are far reaching for sure. Even if the children don't get read to at home and only around 30% do, they will now get read to at school and every child in that school will have a plethora of stories read to them throughout the academic year and stories will become a part of their lives with all of the benefits that that brings!
So hats off to East Bergholt high school and specifically Mr Hetherington for believing in my vision of every child being read stories to and rewarding 14 yr olds etc for learning how to become story tellers with all of the benefits for both age groups.
Today I spent a very productive hour at East Bergholt High school with Mr Hetherington and 9 students this morning. We were practising story telling skills and learning how to speak out 'Loud and proud'. The students got into their stride really quickly and picked up quite a few skills. This will be followed up by another practise session on Monday afternoon and then the students get dropped in at the deep end! The students get Pixl Edge points for getting involved which goes to a substantial reward for them at the end of the year. Last year they got an amazing day out in London going to Westminster Hall then the London eye, Madame Tussaud's a McDonald's and Shrek world (Who knew there was one!)
Next Wednesday the first two students (Two boys) will be vanguarding the scheme by going to East Bergholt primary school and telling a story or two to the children in reception and year 1 respectively. Each week two students from the High School will then go into the primary school and read stories to the children. This will ensure that all of those children not lucky enough to have stories read to them at home will have the experience of having a range of different stories read to them each week.
This will be repeated over the rest of this term and if deemed successful will be offered as a scheme to the rest of the 1,300 schools participating in the Pixl edge scheme.
This could be big and hopefully ensure that all children in every school has a great involvement in being read to and so learn to love stories and who knows what knock on effect that may have?
Last year I was invited by the Iceni school to do an Author visit for their school and it was a blast. This year they have asked me back and are now a paying client! What an amazing compliment especially as it was they who said I should charge for these Author day visits! So chuffed!
I am really looking forward to March the 7th (Wednesday) and making the kids at the Iceni giggle and be inspired. I love being a children's Author, not famous but loving life!
I shall be contacting other schools to of the Author day visit quite soon as I'm having a brand new advertising pack being printed up next week. Designed by the fabulous ladies Sarah and Liz at https://www.smallbusinessgeek.co.uk/ for their amazing artwork and design.
Watch this space!
It is said that reading to children on a daily basis helps young children in a myriad of ways but not all children are lucky enough to get read to at home. So in order to redress that balance somewhat I approached East Bergholt High School to ask if their students would be interested in going into Primary schools and reading to the younger children 10 to 20 minute stories as a part of their Pixl edge scheme and they jumped at the chance!
So on Wednesday the 6th I have been invited to go into the school and workshop a dozen year 9 students who all want to get involved. We will work on projection, character, pace and so on with their peers giving feedback as they practice the art of storytelling.
This is just all pluses as the older Students get to practice a whole bunch of different skills leading to enhanced confidence and themselves understanding the importance of storytelling. It gives the younger children a much wider variety of stories to listen to and so every child in that primary school will get to hear stories read out to them. (This is not about literacy but learning to love literature!). The links between the schools grow and so much more.
Mr Hetherington of East Bergholt has bent over backwards to make this happen despite having recently having had his workload doubled. so I am hugely thankful to him for helping to pilot what has now become known as The Story Gift Scheme.
If it is successful then it is a scheme that might get rolled out to the 1300 and more schools across the country that also reward their students with the Pixl edge scheme.
This is a small start but hugely exciting!!!
The third book in the trilogy is a surprise to me I must say. Most of it is written in form and structure and yet even as I write each new chapter and adjust the previous ones to suit new plot lines beg to be included. I of course want the book finished, published and to receive applause and awards for their ability to entirely absorb the reader into the worlds I am creating.
But I must stay my hand and make sure that the quality of what I write meets the expectations of the readers that I have.
To that end I am putting more and more time aside to write and think and write some more.
Trying to juggle writing time with family time is tricky but family time must and always will come first!
My aim in these workshops is to make it easier for children to understand how to write a story. So D J Cattrell is not just about books but about giving kids practical easy structures to understand all aspects of stories and how important they are in life from newspaper articles to Greek Myths around television programmes and over the hill of history. Stories are what we are, how we remember our world and how we make sense of it.
Wednesday 17th August 2016