Guess what? I’ve been chosen as Ysgol Esgob Morgan’s Patron of Reading. How absolutely awesome and fandabbydozy is that? I reckon this is my greatest honour yet and I’ve been nominated for the Carnegie Medal, don’t you know (Simone’s Letters).
Ysgol (that’s Welsh for ‘school’) Esgob Morgan is a junior school in St Asaph’s, North Wales.
monument in the cathedral grounds of St Asaph’s.
Situated in the middle of a housing estate, from the outside Esgob Morgan looks like most schools built in the 1970s; single storey, flat-roofed and functional. Inside, though, there’s a warmth about the place; a buzz, a sense of expectation. Visitors can tell straight away that exciting things happen here.
I’ve visited the school twice. Once was a flying visit when I was with Bethan Hughes, the dynamic children’s librarian for Denbighshire Schools Library Service and the second time was last Friday when I was invited by the head, Mr Tim Redgrave, in my new capacity of Patron of Reading.
The Patron of Reading idea was Mr Redgrave’s. He is keen to promote reading for pleasure in his school. Scratch that; he’s more than keen; he’s passionate about it. He knows how important it is for his pupils to catch the reading bug and wanted to think of different ways to do it. He already sends his staff on training days to develop their creativity. I know that works because I once led a creative writing day for teachers and Mrs Ritchie (below) stood out from the start because of her infectious enthusiasm. Esgob Morgan’s pupils also participate in the Writing Squads and are first to volunteer to visit the public library for book events. In fact they’ve got such a good reputation for all things bookish that they were selected as the school to host the launch for Chatterbooks in North East Wales which meant they got to meet the legends known as the 2Steves
Mrs Ritchie at the back (left hand side) with Y3 and Y5 pupils
It’s no surprise then that it was in the public library at St Asaph’s that I first met Mr Redgrave. It was eight or nine years ago, back when he was merely a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed teacher. He brought his class to meet me during Book Week. I remember the session because the children were great (i.e. they laughed in all the right places) and Mr Redgrave was so full of compliments it was a bit of a struggle leaving the library afterwards because my head was so big!
While I took it for granted kids would find meeting an author a wee bit special what I didn’t realise was how much impact that visit was going to have on Mr Redgrave. It transpired Mr Redgrave wasn’t much of a reader when he was a kid. Even as a teacher he didn’t read that much fiction but when he met me, a real, live author who talked about where ideas come from and how I wrote, it was ‘like a light being switched on.’ Afterwards, he bought my books and read them all (Jade’s Story was his favourite). He hasn’t looked back since and now loves reading but it was that visit to the library, to meet an author, that turned Tim Redgrave into a reader.
Now I didn’t know any of this until last Friday when Mr Redgrave told this story in assembly during my introduction. Talk about emotional. I was welling up and I’m not even kidding.
Tim Redgrave (left) with Steve Skidmore (2Steves) (image © readinggroups.org)
Being the pro I am I managed to contain myself and the rest of the day was pretty straightforward. I met each year group:
The funky Y4s at Esgob Morgan.
Y3 and Y5 with students from Edge Hill and Y5 teacher Mr Hatwood
Some of the super Y6s
Then I signed copies of my books in the library:
Big moment, this one. Roan (seen here with Mr Hatwood) bought the last copy of There’s Only One Danny Ogle. It’s only available in Football Mad now. Hope you enjoy it, Roan. Feel free to tell my publisher, OUP, how you feel it ought to be available still as a stand alone book, won’t you???
I met Hannah and her sister, Bethan, who had broken her arm playing football. Go girl! (I shouldn’t say that, really. Apparently it was the fourth time poor Bethan had broken her arm. She obviously likes visiting the outpatients ward…
Then Mr Redgrave posed with the school council:
All too soon it was 3.15 and home time. The end.
Only now that I’m Patron of Reading at Esgob Morgan it isn’t the end. It’s actually the beginning of an exciting new adventure. Quite where the adventure will take us we’re not sure yet. My first job will be writing to the children, staff and parents to tell them how much I enjoyed meeting them. I’ll also send a copy of my new book Do Shinpads come in Pink? for the school library when it comes out in June and link Esgob Morgan to my website.
I’m hoping Mr Redgrave’s first job will be to fill the notice board in the library with creative writing the children did during my visit (hint, hint).
Am I excited about being Esgob Morgan’s Patron of Reading? Just a bit.
Remember the formula:
Schools + Writers + Libraries = Magic