How to get teens to #LoveToRead.

Waking up at 5am with a horrible cold, I got up and sat with my lemsip, flicking through the somewhat weird and wonderful world of early morning TV.  I remembered I’d yet to watch ‘The School that Got Teens Reading’.  This is just one of the programmes scheduled for the BBC’s #LoveToRead campaign, so I settled down, between sneezes, to see what it was like.

I’d never heard of the exuberant Javone Prince before. He admitted to being somewhat nervous having no experience of schools other than his own schooling – I don’t blame him! I remember my first ever library lesson about ten years ago – I was absolutely terrified. But what he lacked in experience he made up for with enthusiasm; it was great to hear how much he loves reading and wanted to share that passion with the students.

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Bookchat Roadshow – success!

The alarm went off bright and early yesterday morning and it was all systems go.  We got to Warden Park Primary, having pre-loaded the car the night before just as the head teacher, Steve Davis, arrived.  I’ll admit to being a bag of nerves and excitement – more of the latter though as this was something I’ve been planning and thinking about for the best part of the year and I couldn’t believe it had actually arrived!


Set-up didn’t take too long, thanks to various helpers and the friendly school caretaker along with various members of school staff.  With the banners out, participants began to arrive.  Gill from Inkpots was closely followed by exhibitors Discover & Be, Helen Arkell, the Public Library Service and Schools Library Service.  Louise from Lovereading arrived, bringing lots of brilliant information from Barrington Stoke. It was taking shape before my eyes! Waterstones arrived with a fantastic array of brilliant books for the bookstall. Parents and carers filtered in and the air was filled with curiosity and expectancy.

Steve Davis gave a perfect introduction placing reading at the heart of learning.  I began my presentation with a little trepidation but also huge excitement! It was great to be able to share so many ideas and suggestions with parents and carers who want to support their children with reading for pleasure.  Gill from Inkpots followed with an overview of creative writing, saying that we all have a story to tell and that creative writing should be a fun and collaborative process.   Louise Weir shared all the wonderful things Lovereading does to support children’s reading and book choices.  The tea break was buzzing with activity when parents had the opportunity to visit the various exhibitors covering a range of reading and writing related areas from phonics to dyslexia and finding out about the local library service.

Then the grand finale arrived, with three fantastic award winning authors forming the first ever Bookchat Roadshow panel (sadly Eve Ainsworth couldn’t participate due to ill health). Sophy Henn, Nikki Sheehan and Jamie Thomson shared their childhood memories of reading, along with ideas for encouraging children who aren’t enthusiastic about reading and creative writing and their thoughts on the importance of stories.  There were lots of laughs as Jamie kept being ‘taken over’ by the Dark Lord in between reminiscing about childhood reading and where he gets his writing ideas. “Ideas can come from anything – turn the ordinary into the extraordinary! How do you know the old lady on the bus isn’t an international spy?”  Sophy had wonderful insight into starting the creative writing process using images and pictures and how stories can be created just using your surroundings as inspiration. “Even just going on a family walk you can play the inspiration game, all coming up with ideas to create a story!” And Nikki shared that for her empathy is the most important reason for reading and writing stories “We find out who we are and who others are through reading and telling stories”.

During the panel discussion, there were questions from the audience and these were responded to not just by the authors, but by the various representatives of exhibiting organisations and those who had delivered presentations. It was collaboration in action, with the conversation focusing on supporting those attending so they could go away feeling truly inspired.

Initial feedback has been hugely positive which fills me with great joy! Huge thanks to all those who participated, supported, attended and helped in any way. Whilst the dust is still settling, I am on to planning Bookchat Roadshow number 2, so spread the word and we may well visit a school near you!

For more information about the next event email

The Book Activist and friends at Lindfield Arts Festival

It wasn’t the most fair weather day as we packed the car up for Lindfield Arts Festival. Having spent the preceding day helping hang bunting all the way up the High Street, I hoped the rain would hold off and not make our attempts to decorate the village in vain!

Banners up and room at the ready, I was very excited to be hosting some great authors at the Festival.  Jill Lewis (aka Jill Walkinton and Alison Lewis) author of Hooray for Knickers, along with their amazing illustrator Deborah Allwright (The Night Pirates) delighted a young audience with their storytelling and make-your-own-knickers activity.


Nikki Sheehan delivered two BRILLIANT and inspiring workshops, including a poetry slam (who knew it was possible to get a group of people to write a poem in five minutes?!).

Eve Ainsworth spoke passionately about her books and writing, and the wide range of issues they cover.

And finally, Mr Dilly’s World of Wonder performed two hilarious interactive storytelling sessions to a packed crowd of very excited children – and adults.

All in all it was a great day, with lots of opportunities to chat to children and their parents about the magic of reading – which for me, is what it’s all about. Thank you to all those who participated and brought a little bit of story magic to life!

The Bookchat Roadshow

I am so excited to announce the first ever Bookchat Roadshow!  It’s been a long time in the planning and came about as part of my desire to help and encourage parents in supporting their children with reading.  Parenting is hard work, endlessly rewarding of course, but so often we don’t have time to do all things we’d like to for our children, especially when it comes to reading.

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Memory recall & reflection.

It’s like starting all over again” said my 13 year old who is going into Year 9 in September – and is dyslexic. “I don’t remember anything…a, b, c”. Then he laughed as he spelled out the alphabet.

Privately assessed by an educational psychologist when aged 7, who said “it’s glaringly obvious” that he has dyslexia, we have been aware of his learning needs for some time.  We’ve done our best to support him throughout – including moving schools, when one particular headmaster responded to my complaint that my son was not getting any support, even with an ed psych report:  “This is all we are going to do. If you don’t like it, take him somewhere else”. So I did. Parent power is essential for any child with a learning need, in an age where some schools are still ill-equipped to help or are oversubscribed with an ever-increasing number of children who need extra help.

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Bookchat at Warden Park Primary

I had a fantastic visit to Warden Park Primary to run bookchat workshops with Year 5 & 6. The children were brilliant and enjoyed sharing their thoughts about reading, as well as participating in the various activities. The aim was to share the joy of reading and enable them to discover the magic of books, with guidance on how to go about choosing the right book, using their own interests as a guide. We looked at the concept of genre and played genre based games, which they loved.  They also loved the travelling bookcase and the fantastic books it contained!

It’s such a joy to talk about books with children and see their excitement and appreciation. Bookchat is such a great opportunity to develop reading skills and empower children to become more confident in their reading choices.   I’m delighted to say the feedback was great; thank you Warden Park Primary!

“The children loved the workshops, they are now so much more motivated to read and explore books – children that used to say that they didn’t like reading are now asking to go to the library so that is great! Also, when I ask them to find book to do some quiet reading I am now met with smiling faces! The activities that you led were engaging and really encouraged the children to think about reading and what it means to them without being too intense! The workshops had an extremely positive impact.”

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Why I love reading.

Working as I am at present has caused me to reflect and as such, consider why it is that I love reading.

I’ve always been a reader. I can remember as a young reader, when I was so engrossed in my books, my older sister would throw things at me to get my attention – thankfully there were no broken bones (or books!).  As I got older, reading was just something I always did, it being perfectly natural to pick up a book, sit and read for hours. It was definitely an escape for me – not that I had an unhappy childhood; I just had a massively vivid imagination and would open the pages of a new book with joy ready for the next adventure to begin, escaping the world of school, homework and the growing pains of being a teenager.

So maybe that’s what made me fall in love with reading – the ability to transport myself to other worlds, other times and connect with new ‘people’ even if they were only between the pages of a book. My father definitely influenced my reading; giving me a ‘library’ of brand new books; ‘classic’ reads which I loved because they were beautiful leather bound books – not because I actually wanted to read them at the time! Beau Gueste, Lorna Doone, Uncle Tom’s Cabin didn’t really appeal to me – I was more into Sweet Valley High which I suppose reflected my blooming interests in all things romance and the trials & tribulations of friendships!  But the thing was, I loved those actual, physical books, the idea of all those words inside, knowing these particular ‘classics’ perhaps reflected a certain intelligence and knowledge, which even though I hadn’t read yet, it was there. Just waiting. Continue reading