OK, I’ll come right out and say it; I wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary to happen yesterday. There were no indications that the visit to Ysgol Llywelyn in Rhyl would be any different from the hundreds of other school visits I’ve made over the years.
- The weather was normal for July (rain).
- The arrangements were normal (meet librarian at the school by 9.15. We’ll be working with two Y4 classes, Mrs Jones’ and Mr Roe’s).
- The school was normal (large, between-the-wars period brick and metal window design, bang in the middle of a housing estate).
- The car park was normal (squeeze in where you can).
- The two sessions were pretty normal, in fact.
Mrs Jones’ class looking normal. Mrs Jones is on the right-hand side at the back
Mr Roe’s class hear about the Summer Reading Challenge from Bethan Hughes, Reading Services Manager for Denbighshire, in a normal fashion
There were the normal SAY CHEESE! cheesy group shots at the end…
Everything was NORMAL.
Until it was almost time to leave and Mrs Jones came rushing up. ‘I have to show you this,’ she said, her eyes shining in that was only teachers’ eyes can shine when something special has happened. She shoved an exercise book under my nose. ‘Jay’s just written this. He’s remembered everything; all the names, everything you said. And look at the handwriting. Look how neat it is.’
‘That’s…er… great,’ I replied, trying to share her enthusiasm but not quite understanding.
‘But to get that from Jay is incredible. This is what his last piece of writing looked like.’ And Mrs Jones flipped back to the previous page.
‘Wow!’ I said. I could see why Mrs Jones was beaming so much. The difference in the handwriting alone is quite startling but so, also, was the level of recall, especially for a boy who apparently finds school a bit of a chore at times.
Jay was called forth. I remembered him from the first session. He’d been sitting to my right, a normal, smiley chap with brown hair. ‘Thank you for coming to our school,‘ he said, on a roll with all this attention and going for the MOST POLITE BOY IN SCHOOL Award while he was at it.
Afterwards I realised that what had happened that morning wasn’t normal at all. I’d taken for granted the affect an author visit can have on children. How, in less than an hour, it can cast a tiny but telling spell. Of course, the children at Ysgol Llywelyn, like those at Ysgol Esgob Morgan, Portway Juniors, Crofton and all the other schools I’ve visited recently, are fairly easy to bewitch. They already have keen teachers like Mrs Jones and Mr Roe who enthuse them. They have a head teacher who encourages them to use the library and participate in the Summer Reading Challenge. They have a friendly librarian who comes to school and forges links with them. But add that one extra ingredient – an author visit – and POW – you get the real meaning of the word …