Friday, 11 November 2016

Author in Residence

I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to be Author in Residence at the utterly fantastic Litcham School.

What is an Author in Residence? I'm sure everyone at Litcham will be relieved to know that it doesn't mean I'll be turning up with my suitcases to move in (although if I could camp out in your brilliant library, that wouldn't be such a bad idea!).

But I will be coming to school several times this year to work with students in both primary and secondary phases, promoting reading for pleasure, creative writing, and all things bookish.



I first encountered Litcham at the KidsLitQuiz regional heat in Thetford last year. Their team had gone all the way to the top and won the British National Final the year before so I knew they must be pretty keen on their reading! They won the heat and I joined them at the National Final in Oxford last year - where they came second in a nail-biting finish. Pretty impressive for a small school in a lovely little town in a quiet part of Norfolk, I think you'll agree!

After the quiz, the lovely librarian, Cathy Berry, asked me to come to the school for an author visit.  From the minute I arrived, I could see why they do so well in KidsLitQuiz! Reading is absolutely central to the life of the school. The library is at the heart of it all, of course, and Cathy's role in that shines through. But reading for pleasure extends beyond the library throughout the entire school. There are a book clubs (the Novelholics recently discussed Kevin Brookes' The Bunker Diaries, for example, while the Book Anacondas have read Candy Gourlay's Shine.), Carnegie Shadowing Groups, regular author visits, and a literary blog, Books and Beyond. They've even organised their own junior version of KidsLitQuiz, inviting children from their feeder primaries to come along for a book quiz challenge.

I was  delighted to go back again this term. This time I spent the whole day in the primary phase, started out with the youngest children in Y1 and Y2. We had a lovely time chatting about stories and rummaging about in Emily's investigations kit. 



 I also did workshops with Y3, looking at story structure (what is Scooby Doo's goal in life?), and Y6 - playing a game to think about observation and deduction in mystery stories. One of the best things about the day was that I was assigned two amazing assistants. Y8 students Jordan and Damien spent the whole day with me, helping with everything to working with teams of children to setting up the booksale to stopping me getting lost on my way between classrooms. Jordan has also written a great account of the day on the literary blog here.



The day was rounded off with an assembly in which all the children shared their work from the day. The Author In Residence partnership was officially announced. I'm so grateful to the school for inviting me to take up this role,  particularly Cathy Berry for organising it all, and also, very special thanks to the Rotary Club who are funding the initiative. We have two more visits planned so far. The first will be in December, when I will spend the day in the secondary phase, doing an exciting new full day creative writing workshop. The next will be in March - on World Book Day, of course!

As an author, I always love going into schools to talk about reading and writing, but there is something extra special about building a relationship with a school, going back several times, getting to know the staff and students. I've learned this already through my Patron of Reading connection with two other great primary schools. I'm looking forward to spending lots more time at Litcham School and all the great places our reading and writing adventures will take us.