May saw the 6th anniversary of the Patron of Reading initiative. Of all the reading ventures and ideas around, Patron of Reading has to be one of the easiest, cheapest and most rewarding to initiate. The genius idea of headteacher Tim Redgrave of teaming up a school with its own author has grown and grown. There are now over 200 patrons placed in schools throughout the UK and many more on the waiting list. Yes – waiting list. How can there be such a thing? Any teachers reading this need to snap up the likes of Josh Lacey and Miriam Moss right now.
My time as patron at Ysgol Esgob Morgan Church of Wales School was one of sheer joy. The buzz around books it created and the link it forged with the pupils, staff and local librarians was one I’ll always cherish. Children’s authors aren’t all famous. They can’t all be on the best seller list or have their books made into films. However, every children’s author I know has something special to offer to schools, whether it’s their inside knowledge of how a book is written, their experience of running workshops or that extra spark that can ignite that one child who, so far, has not found reading a pleasure at all. Tim recognised this and that’s why he approached me with the idea first; he’d seen me perform at St Asaph Library and knew I’d be a good ‘fit’ with his school. And guess what – he was right! I can’t tell you the boost it gave me.
I used to love writing my termly newsletter to each class and reading their comments they left on their bespoke section of my website – these kept the momentum going between visits. I was lucky, too, in that Tim’s staff were such a keen and friendly bunch. The school already had links with the local public library and participated in schemes such as the Summer Reading Challenge and the North Wales Book Quiz. Their library is at the heart of the school, too – a sure sign that books mattered to them. They even extended it in size during my time there. Best of all the staff were receptive to trying out new ideas and they were avid readers, too. My heart sinks when I hear teachers say they ‘don’t have time’ to read and make it obvious that they haven’t visited a bookshop or library in years. How can such teachers pass on a love of reading if they don’t have one themselves? Having said that, the National Curriculum has a lot to answer for in terms of thwarting teachers’ creativity and I applaud the work Professor Teresa Cremin and her team is doing with her Teachers as Readers programme. More of this kind of thing, please!
So huge congratulations to Tim Redgrave for initiating such a great idea, huge congratulations to headteacher Jon Biddle who undertakes the admin, website and Twitter feed to keep spreading the word and huge congratulations to all teachers, authors, illustrators, poets and playwrights who make it happen. Here’s to the next 6 years and more.