Now here’s a school close to my heart; Sutton-on-Trent Primary School in Nottinghamshire. Sutton-on-Trent was the last school I taught at before turning to writing full-time. I have fond memories of teaching there but I knew my time was up when I had a deadline for a book (There’s Only One Danny Ogle) and an Ofsted inspection during the same week. I met the deadline but only got a ‘satisfactory’ from the Ofsted inspector for my science lesson. It was a fair enough grade; science has never been my strong point, even at Key Stage 2 level. I can manage pollination and the water cycle but that’s about it. I honestly don’t know how junior school teachers manage to get outstanding in every subject; I bow to their magnificence.
Anyway, these days when I visit Sutton-on-Trent it’s as an author, thank goodness, and I can do what I’m best at – talk about books and show off in assemblies. Last Tuesday’s assembly was a special one. Parents had been invited, floors had been polished, hair brushed, authors called for. It was a Big Day with Tons To Get Through. First of all the Y6s graduated from the Dare programme and performed several short dramatic pieces about how smoking would kill you so, like, DON’T EVEN GO THERE, DUDE. After that, prizes were given out for chess, maths and… my favourite … reading. I was there to:
a) present the Award for Reading.
At Sutton-on-Trent, pupils from each year were awarded prizes for showing enthusiasm for reading. I wish all schools did this!
b) Launch the Reading Agency’s Summer Reading Challenge.
Here I am reading Lane Smith’s brilliant ‘It’s a Book’ to enthuse the audience.
As I have a soft spot for Sutton-on-Trent Primary my incentive to them to increase participation in the Summer Reading Challenge went beyond wine gums (sorry Tuxford). We’re talking trophies, people. Shiny, solid gold (ish) trophies.
Let it be known that I have only donated a trophy of this splendour to one other school in the kingdom – Ysgol Esgob Morgan, where I am Patron of Reading – so that shows the esteem in which I hold both Sutton-on-Trent and the Summer Reading Challenge. I’ve got to tell you, though, Sutton, Ysgol Esgob Morgan have a bit of a rep in the reading department. I think every class might get 100%. Can you equal that?
So why am I making such a fuss about all this? Especially when I don’t stand to gain anything from it personally? Let’s face it, my books sales are not going to increase and my profile as a writer isn’t going to rocket by giving out two cups and a packet of wine gums (if only). But what I do know is:
Children show a ‘dip’ in learning during the summer holidays. The Summer Reading Challenge helps prevent this.
Visiting a library gets children into the reading habit.
It’s fun – Story Lab includes scratch n’ sniff stickers and loads of things to collect along the way.
The Summer Reading Challenge unites teachers, parents and librarians. Better still it unites children with texts of all types, shapes and sizes.
Children who participate are more likely to go on to become avid readers. Being an avid reader has been proven to be the best way of closing the attainment gap between children from wealthier and poor backgrounds.
Any contribution I can make towards that can only be a good thing, yes?