Sheffield Children's Book Award 2008 Winners

A new display was gone up this week at the Bannerdale Centre, where Reading Matters is based, about the Sheffield Children's Book Award. It made me realise the winner had already been announced. The overall winner is Beware! Killer Tomatoes by Jeremy Strong, but there are lots of others in different categories.

I have to admit the only one I have actually read is The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, which is fantastic. Anyone else read any of the winners?

Classics on your console

How's this for a way to promote reading with the computer games generation; Nintendo have cartridge for their handheld DS machine called the 100 Classic Book Collection. It's 14.99 on Amazon, that's 15p per book. Some of the titles might prove a bit tough; Shakespeare, Austen, Dickens, but others might just hit the button (that's a bad pun); Wilkie Collins, Lewis Carroll, Conan Doyle, Jack London, Anna Sewell, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Worth a look.


Books to read over Christmas

A nice article on the npr website about books to read over the Christmas period, which as well as some recommendations of books to read includes some advice on how to overcome any apprehension about reading aloud:

"But some parents feel self-conscious when they read aloud, says Judy Freeman, the author of a guide to read-aloud books called Books Kids Will Sit Still For. Freeman says they should get over their inhibitions.

"Your kids don't know the difference. They just want to be warm, and they want to hear your voice, and they associate the words with you," she says. "It turns them into readers. If you want your kids to read, you have to read to them."

Reading aloud to kids is a good idea no matter what time of year, says Freeman, but the holidays can be an incentive to get started."

Good stuff.


BBC Front Row Christmas Books

There are lots of lists of Christmas books around at the moment, but I caught the programme on Radio 4 earlier in the week and the Front Row selection seems particulay good. The recommended books for 8 to 14 year-olds are:

Illustrated books
  • The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams with illustrations by Quentin Blake
  • Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton and David Tazzyman
  • The Great Paper Caper by Oliver Jeffers
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart illustrated by Carson Ellis
A poetic book
  • Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

For older readers

  • Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd
  • Airman by Eoin Colfer
  • Parliament of Blood by Justin Richards
  • Inkdeath by Cornelia Funke
  • Jackdaw Summer by David Almond
  • Cosmic by Frank Cottrell Boyce
Non Fiction Books
  • Spyology by Dugald Steer
  • Take Me Back by Various

Many of these are included in my Recommended Reading list via Amazon.

Names and faces

I have had a great week, but a testing one with lots of new names and faces!

On Monday and Wednesday (8 and 10 December 08) I delivered my first Training for Reading Matters Volunteer Mentors (as I mentioned before when offering a few resource suggestions), with the very able assistance of Paul Woods from the Reading Matters Dearne Valley project.

I hope all those that attended will agree, but I thought it went really well. It was a very nice relaxed atmosphere, which meant the very impressive turn out everyone could and did contributed. Inevitably the bits that worked best, were those where the volunteers worked together on the reading exercises, and this with this in mind I am sure we can do a bit more to spice up the other 'talky' bits next time round. It was such an inspiring bunch of people with so much enthusiasm and creativity, I have now been energised to get all there school placements sorted out, so I won't go in to much detail, and although I threatened to take a few photos we were so focused on the training I didn't get round to it.

Following on from the training yesterday (11 December 08), I was at head office for our staff day. It was the first time I had met many of the other Reading Matters staff, so this was great. We got the opportunity to talk about the positive future that Reading Matters seems to have lined up, and eat a few mince pies!


Getting Linking 1: Some online resources for Reading Mentors

[Update: I have gathered all posts like together under the title Getting Linking]

I have my first volunteer training session this week, so I thought I would gather together some of the resources I have come across recently. I hope they will be of use, and is a good example of what this blog is all about.

Ed Helper
An strong American bias, but some excellent customisable resources to print-out.

Stories from the web Stories and other resources on a books/stories/reading theme.

My Child Large range of useful printable resources.

BBC RaW First chapters of a range of well selected books (also games and other resources).

Drop everything and read Downloadable, printable activity sheets and more.

The DFC Online comic site with games and other resources.

Harper Collins - Children's Some nicely presented printables based on children's books.

Penny Arcade Comics based on computer games.

First Choice Books Tool for finding book recommendations.

Teachers Domain Site aimed at American teachers, but some resources may be of use.

Purpose Games Mainly geographical based online games. Quirkles Some fun reading material on a science theme.

Anorak Magazine Community based magazine with lots online with a reading theme.

Poetry Archive Poems organised by author and subject, can be print or audio.

New Fairy Tales Downloadable fairy stories.

Etymonline Find the origins of words.

Helium Community submitted articles, on a range of subjects.

Barnaby Bear Some downloadable resources, mainly on a geographical theme.

Parents Choice Various Resources aimed at parents.

Owl at Purdue Some quite technical info about grammar, punctuation and the like.


Fun at Seven Hills School

I've been visiting Seven Hills School a lot recently, which is great because it is such a fun and welcoming place.

Volunteer Reading Mentoring

As I mentioned previously, I have been covering for an existing volunteer, for a few weeks this term. It is my first experience of actual hands-on reading sessions. I may have been lucky with the pupils I have been reading with, and I am sure the previous volunteer has been very good, but the two pupils I have been reading with have be great.

I have only done a few sessions, but we seem to have fitted in a lot of activities. We have used fun sheets, games and resources from Reading Matters, but I am really pleased that the most successful thing has been reading books. One of the pupils really liked dogs, so we started with The Dog Top Trumps then moved on to Dog (DK Eyewitness Books). The other pupil is in to football and fishing and I have to recommend Starting Fishing (Usborne First Skills) which has a super range of picture, illustrations and different lengths of texts. Thanks to the Sheffield Schools Library Service for these, all Reading Matters Volunteers can access all the services the Schools Library Service, it is a super resource and the staff are really helpful and skilled a finding that perfect book. They are based in the Bannerdale Centre along with Reading Matters (Sheffield and Rotherham) so do call in.

Community reading morning

As well as the reading sessions, I was very pleased to be asked along to a reading morning at Seven Hills School. I partnered a pupils who's parents couldn't make it, and along with a room full of parents, carers, grandparents and members of the community, we took part in all sorts of activities based around reading. Expertly lead by Sophie (apologies for not catching her second name) we learnt how to do paired reading, played games, got sticky and glittery with some craft materials, and got even sticker making rice crispie cakes. All sneaky ways to engage young people in reading. Everyone got a lot out of it, not least a free book for each adult and child, but mainly an enthusiasm for reading together.

Seven Hills School staff are so on-the-ball with literacy activities that bring in people from the community to really support and develop the pupils. It is an inspiration, and I am sure Reading Matters will continue to support them as much as we can.

The Times Christmas Books 2008

My second post in a row about the Times, but I thought you might be interested in their The Times Christmas Books 2008. Top of the list is Frank Cottrell Boyce's Cosmic, which is great choice.


The Times Books for Schools

The Times and The Sunday Times have a new promotion called Books for Schools.

From January 2009, they will be exchanging books for tokens collected the newspaper.

It does sound really good, and the book lists they have prepared look excellent, including the sort of titles we would recommend at Reading Matters.

Teachers need to register their schools to receive the books, and if you do so by 30 November 2008, they can claim 100 bonus tokens.

National Year of Reading in Sheffield

Yesterday (20/11/08) I attended my first steering group meeting for the National Year of Reading in Sheffield. Ironically it was the last of the meetings but I was very glad I made it, simply to hear about the vast wealth of activities that have been taking place under the Year of Reading banner here in Sheffield.

There is still lots to come however, so although the National Year of Reading effictevely ends in a month or so there are so many events still to come, and so many activites have been such a success this year, I am sure they will continue. And I am sure Reading Matters will continue to be involved.

The National Year of Reading website has some smart resources that will definately be of use, for example:

NY Times article - Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing

I just spotted this article on the New York Time website, Teenagers’ Internet Socializing Not a Bad Thing, almost in passing they mention that a new study suggests "participation is giving them the technological skills and literacy they need to succeed in the contemporary world" [bold is my addition].

Over in the comments, people seem to be going spare at the suggestion use of the internet is improving young people's literacy. This is going to run-and-run, I remember Ian Rankin suggesting playing modern video games can help children develop reading skills, back in August. Personally, I can see both side of the story, and wouldn't like to make any judgements on such new media, but it is great fun to see the two sides of the generation/skills gap getting so worked-up.


The Roald Dahl Funny Prize Winners

The first Roald Dahl Funny Prize was announced last week, Mr Gum and the Dancing Bear by Andy Stanton, was deemed the 'Funniest Book for Children Aged Seven to Fourteen'. It does sound good and genuinely funny, which I guess is the point! As they say in the Guardian, it ' follows in the footsteps of the master of madcap humour commemorated by the award'. If it does turn out to be up-your-street, or the street of the 7-14 year-old you are reading with, the good news is that it is the fifth in a series, so there are plenty more to explore.

A bit closer to home, check out the long list for the 2008 Doncaster Book Award, which is in it's fifth year.

Horner Brothers Print Group Staff at Brinsworth Comprehensive

At the end of last week I visited Brinsworth Comprehensive School, I met lots of staff and pupils from the school in the Library, they were all very enthusiastic about the Reading Matters sessions. The volunteer reading mentors at Brinsworth are all staff from Horner Brothers Print Group (HBPG) based not far away from the school. It is a really good project building a real sense of community between the school and the business community.

We have written a press release to celebrate the relationship, here are a couple of quotes which I think sum it up.

Christine Mullan, HR Director at HBPG: "Staff have loved helping the children at Brinsworth School. They get enormous satisfaction from the knowledge they are really helping to support and inspire young people in our community."
Jill Ford, Assistant Head Teacher at Brinsworth Comprehensive School:"The young people who the Horner Brothers volunteers work with have gained confidence through the reading activities and developing a friendly relationship with another adult."
We hope the press release will lead to a bit of coverage in the media. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes such as this are quite big news at the moment so we will see how it goes.


A 13 year-old boy tells it like it is - Vampires, simply put, are awesome

I keep an eye on a few other blogs about reading and quite a few have mentioned a letter by a 13 year old to Publishers Weekly. It is worth a read, and makes some great points that might help our Reading Mentors selecting books for boys, here are some thoughts with quotes from the letter.
  • Avoid langauge that is any way not 'modern': ""Methinks”? “Doth”? Really?"
  • Avoid over emphasised morals: "[don't] smother us in morals that would make a Care Bear cringe"
  • Give them what they want, mainly one thing attacking another thing: "today's vampire stories are 100 pages of florid descriptions of romance and 100 pages of various people being emo"
  • Don't dumb down: "Do Not Underestimate Your Audience."

At the risk of under-estimating my audience, here's a definition of emo, I think the kids have moved on a bit these days..

[via The Ya Ya Yas]

Reading Matters Vacancies

Just a quick post to let you know Reading Matters are currently recruiting for a Project Manager and an Administrator, both would be based in Bradford. See the Reading Matters website for more information and to apply.


Obama loves 'Where the wild things are'

If you write a blog, it seems to be the law that you have to have at least one post about Barack Obama. So here is mine, check out this video where he states that Where the Wild Things are is his favourite book, and just how keen he is on children's litrature. The video is poor quality I am afraid but there are subtitles.


Waitrose Community Matters

At the recent Volunteers Meetings, I asked volunteers to recommend Reading Matters in Sheffield and Rotherham for the new Waitrose Community Matters scheme.

The Sheffield branch of Waitrose will be giving away £1,000 each month. The money is to be split between three local organisations of which we hope Reading Matters will be one. Shoppers will then dictate how the money is allocated.

Obviously the first step is to get
Reading Matters selected, so if you fancy filling in a form they are available at Waitrose, or do get in touch with me. The forms are incredibly simple, mine had a grand total of 22 words!

There is some more useful information about the scheme on the South Yorkshire Funding Advice Bureau's Funding News website.

Thanks to Anne for the tip off on this!


Autumn 2008 Volunteer Meetings

On Wednesday (22/10/08) we had the Sheffield volunteers meeting (that's us in the photo above, in the massive main hall at the Bannerdale Centre) and today (24/10/08) I was in Rotherham.

I enjoyed meeting the volunteers and hearing some real life stories of what it is like to be in a reading partnership. As you would expect they were all very positive about the reading sessions with pupils , but it's clear the relationship with staff at the relevant school can have a big impact. Some work for me then, to strengthen these relationships and reinforce the contribution the Reading Matters volunteers make.

Otherwise, we had a bit of chat, drunk some coffee, ate some biscuits and shared some tips for resources to use in the sessions.

I particularly enjoyed the Rotherham meeting, we held it in the Spectrum, Voluntary Action Rotherham's new building (cheap meeting rooms available!) This is were I worked before starting with Reading Matters, so it was nice to be back and see some familiar faces.


Celebration event for Reading Leaders at Sheffield Town Hall with Leader of the Council Paul Scriven

A great event took place yesterday (21/10/08), I was in a posh room in the Town Hall with 80 or so Reading Leaders and their teachers, Paul Scriven the Leader of Sheffield Council and a bunch of other council staff. All the Reading Leaders (generally pupils in years 10 or 11) who have been partnering younger pupils in reading sessions were presented with a certificate by Paul Scriven. As I said in my very short little speech, it was excellent to see so many young people taking on some responsibility and giving up their time and energy to support other children.

It was obviously something that touched a nerve with Paul Scriven, who had taken time out of what must be a busy schedule to come and talk to the Reading Leaders, and as he said, the next time some one moans about all youngsters being knife wielding hoodies, we will have a perfect counter argument.

There were nearly 100 Reading Leaders in attendance from Abbeydale Grange, Firth Park Community Arts College, King Ecgbert School, Meadowhead School and Stocksbridge High School.


Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008

The shortlist for the Booktrust Teenage Prize 2008 has been out for some time, but is definitely worth a look. All the books look intriguing, lots about troubled youth, two of the books have the word knife in the title, one, The Knife of Never Letting Go, won the Guardian Children's Fiction Prize this year.


It isn't going to teach anyone to read, but this pop-up alphabet book by Marion Bataille looks great and can only help to inspire an interest in letters and how they are formed

Buy at Abc3d at amazon.co.uk.


First Visit to Seven Hills School

I visited Seven Hills School on Wednesday (15/10/08) for the first time, it was a really good experience. Seven Hills (formerly East Hill Secondary and Oaks Park Schools) has pupils with learning difficulties, and the atmosphere in the school is very different to other secondaries I have visited recently. Rather than be very stand-offish the pupils are incredibly friendly and sociable, and they clearly have a very strong relationship with their teachers and other staff.

I am going to be covering one of Reading Matters' Volunteers Mentors who cannot make a few sessions later in the year. I have to say, I am really looking forward to it.


Superb videos about reading from the K5

Two great videos from The K5, I think this one, Tips to Improve Reading Comprehension, is most relevant to Reading Matters:

But, this one, Reading at Home: How to Use Environmental Print, is just great:


Schools On Board

More for my own benefit than anything else (I am brushing up on my local geography) I have put all the secondary schools in Sheffield and Rotherham that work with Reading Matters on an online map.

View Larger Map

If you are thinking of volunteering this might be a good place to see which schools Reading Matters are currently working with. Alternatively if your local school does not feature, you could suggest they get involved!


Days and Weeks

There seem to be no end of celebratory days, weeks, months and years, and I can never keep up. We seem to be in the middle of a whole batch at the moment, it is of course National Year of Reading, but there are a lot of other things going on at the moment:

[Thanks Write Away and Guardian Mortar Board


My first volunteer placement – Sheffield Springs Academy

I placed my first Reading Matters Volunteer Reading Mentors today (7/10/08), at the very impressive Sheffield Springs Academy. The new building, which opened in February (see the article in The Star), is very inspiring, lots of glass and wood give a really open airy feeling even when the corridors are teaming with pupils. There are great views of the city and fields beyond, very different to those old Victorian schools with windows you can’t actually see out of.

I think our Reading Matters volunteers will be very happy there, the Resource Centre is very will appointed, and all the staff I met were very appreciative and welcoming.

Seemed to me a good example of how the architectural environment can really help to inspire the people who use it, Kevin McCloud would be proud.


Book Week at Newfield

Today (6/10/08) I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon with a group of pupils, a local author, a councillor, school staff and governors at Newfield school.

As part of the school’s book week, Louise Taylor, the Learning Resource Centre Manager, had arranged for the author Malcolm Rose (www.malcolmrose.co.uk) to talk about his work and inspire the pupils to create some stories of their own. She was kind enough to ask me along and I was really glad she did. It was my first visit to a school as the Reading Matters Project Manager, and what a great start. Everyone especially the pupils and Malcolm were so enthusiastic, it was great to be a part of, although the ‘dark’ theme certainly produced some unsettling results.

Newfield is the middle of a massive construction project and the new school building is looking impressive. Louise is already working wonders in the current library, including working with the Reading Matters volunteers, so who knows what she’ll achieve in the new state-of-the-art resource centre?

To my shame, I haven’t read any of Malcolm’s books, but I am certainly going to. It is just a question of where to start – more than books in about 20 years, that’s some going. Kiss of Death has just been added to the booked up scheme (worth a look if you work in a school and fancy some free books - www.bookedup.org.uk) so I reckon that’s worth a look, the Lawless and Tilley books are set in Sheffield so that would be good, but the pupils seemed to be going for books from the Traces series – I’ll see what they’ve got in my local library. You can see Malcolm in person at the Off The Shelf, I’d recommend it).


Getting Trained

I am trained!

Over two days last week (1 and 2 Oct 08) I completed the Reading Matters volunteer training course with the Leeds Reading Matters project at the very leafy Elmete Centre.

I really enjoyed it, and I could not believe how quickly the time went. At some point I will be delivering the course myself, so I felt a bit of an imposter because all the other attendees were getting prepared to start with their reading partners in local schools.

I was very lucky because it was a great group of volunteers; a very friendly cross-section of students, retired people and professionals who have found some time in their busy schedules. They all brought something different and, for me, it was a great insight into the generosity of the people who give their time to Reading Matters. Although, having said that, it is clear what a buzz the volunteers get from the reading sessions with young people.

It was also great for me to meet Lisa, Christine and Janet from Reading Matters in Leeds.

As well receiving the training from them, I was able to spend a bit of time getting the benefit from of their years of experience at Reading Matters. The Leeds project is a perfect model for me in Sheffield and Rotherham.


The Baby in the Mirror

Whilst awaiting the arrival of Rose I read The Baby in the Mirror by Charles Fernyhough (check out his associated blog The Ladybird Papers). He is a lecturer and researcher in developmental psychology and the book tracks his personal and professional insights into the development of his own first child.

It has some fascinating stuff on language and reading, I was particularly interested in a short section about ‘storyworlds’ whereby readers use their imagination to fill in gaps in an author’s literal narrative, “[readers] behave as though they were within  that world, rather than looking in on it from the outside”. This is true of all readers from the very young, with which the book is dealing, right through to adults. However, a subtle difference is suggested; an adult reader might become emotionally absorbed in a narrative whilst still understanding that it is fiction, younger children, however, respond emotionally as if they were ‘in’ the storyworld.

How exciting – not just to read and enjoy a good story, but to be ‘living’ within it! 


Meeting my first volunteers

On Tuesday I met my first couple of Reading Matters volunteers. They were both incredibly competent, so Elaine (Belcher, my predecessor) gave them a nice short-and-sweet version of the Reading Matters training session to get them up and running and ready to start in Sheffield City School the next day!

I was hugely impressed, both by the volunteer’s aptitude and enthusiasm and Elaine’s skill at informing and inspiring them.

One of the volunteers was from the Sheffield Dyslexia Centre (Sheffield Dyslexia Centre, Unit 6, Riverside Court, Don Road, Attercliffe, Sheffield S9 2TJ, Tel: 0114 2441777, there is a great article on the BBC CSV Action website with lots of information). It was a great example of the extended network Reading Matters has developed; expect a presentation at a future Volunteers Meeting.


An excited start

OK, so I am pretty excited and I don't know where to start.

The basic idea is that I'll use this blog to track my experiences at Reading Matters, the people I meet, the events I go to, the training I undertake, the stuff I read and so on. But it is going to be much more complicated than that because I have a lovely sticky new daughter, Rose, and I think some personal stuff is going to creep in quite a bit.

The first thing I did in before starting with Reading Matters and whilst we waited for Rose to arrive, was to get a couple of the Ultimate Book Guideout of the library. This alone made me pretty excited, so many cool books to read, new ones, classics and ones I read when I was younger.

This is indicative of how I don’t know quite where to start; I guess it’s always the case with a new job. Just thinking about what I might start reading, I thought I’d be able to get going with a few books aimed at the sort of age ranges Reading Matters generally works with. But it is nearly impossible to choose, and add to this all the other things I might spend my time reading; books for and about babies, the policy and training stuff from Reading Matters and the growing pile of impulsive charity shop purchases of books I ‘should’ read, a preponderance of rather ‘heavy’ classics still on the shelf. Then there is all the other stuff I should be doing with my time, both at home (DIY, cleaning, exercise), and at work (getting familiarised at Reading Matters, setting up some other systems and the day-to-day it’s all quite overwhelming.

But what a great position to be in, it’s all there to be explored and enjoyed, and I couldn’t be happier.