How can children be motivated to put down their tablet, pick up a book and read?
A question many parents and teachers have often asked themselves. In our case the answer was simple – enter Duncan Beedie.
We were very lucky when Duncan agreed to visit our school to celebrate the launch of his latest book, The Last Chip. I am not sure who was more excited to meet a real life author and illustrator, the children or myself.
Duncan’s day started off in Key Stage 1, where around 150 5 -7 year olds hung on his every word. I have rarely seen that many children so engaged and listening so carefully to a book; in this case, The Lumberjack’s Beard. The questions afterwards really showed that the children had been paying attention and were interested. They loved the story and have been looking for more Duncan Beedie books in the library ever since.
Next stop, and a slightly more daunting task: motivate Key Stage 2 to read more. Much easier with a world premiere! The gasps of excitement echoing through the hall were clearly audible when Duncan explained that they were the first children to read the book ahead of the official book launch. One could have heard a pin drop while Duncan was reading The Last Chip. The children enjoyed spotting famous Bristolian landmarks and when Duncan showed everyone how to illustrate Percy, the pigeon, the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ and ‘so cools’ were unstoppable. Later on in class, everyone had the chance to illustrate Percy. The results were amazing.
From Key Stage 2 we headed over to reception and around 80 4-5 year olds. We were all very impressed with their listening and the children clearly enjoyed The Last Chip. They too had a go at illustrating and making up their own Percy stories.
In the afternoon, Year 3 took part in an illustration masterclass. A step-by-step guide on how to draw Percy. Easy once you know who the inspiration for Percy was- Star Wars enthusiasts might have spotted a slight similarity with R2D2? Well, once the children knew that Duncan enjoyed Star Wars….
Duncan very kindly donated copies of his books to our school library, needless to say that since his visit, these books are the clear favourites. There is such a buzz in the library and not just about Duncan’s books but generally about books where children are comparing and talking about the books they have read.
It is thanks to people like Duncan, who give up their time and introduce children to new experiences and possibilities, that learning comes to life. Meeting people with real jobs who are successful in what they do raises aspirations and opens possibilities; and meeting authors helps foster and develop a love of reading and this in turn gives children a firm foundation for success in life. Half my class have now decided they want to become illustrators and authors when they grow up (a profession that had never been mentioned prior to Duncan’s visit).
A huge THANK YOU to Duncan Beedie and everyone at Templar for making this all possible.