Interplay Leeds Volunteer Reading Mentors Meeting 2

I said in my last post about our recent Volunteer Reading Mentors Meeting at Interplay in Leeds, I would share my short presentation. So here it is:

Reading Matters Presentation - Interplay 10-12-09

My overall message was that, despite so many changes, in schools, government and at Reading Matters, the need for us to keep on improving reading skills and changing lives is as great as ever.

In fact, the week after our meeting there was a flurry of news stories about how thousands of boys start secondary school 'barely able to read', the BBC report highlighted some of Reading Matters core areas of work. For example, in Rotherham 14% of 11-year-old boys in state schools did not reach level three in their reading tests this summer, this means they were at the level expected of a seven-year-old.

It is true that 'raw data' from the controversial SATS reading tests will not provide the full story, but headlines like these indicate there are still huge numbers of children and young people in primary and secondary schools that do not have special educational needs but still need extensive support for them to reach their full potential in life.

The next part of my presentation shows that through Reading Matters
Reading Mentors, Reading Leaders and other programmes, we do reach these young people with simple, targeted and effective support. In fact in the the 2009-10 academic year we supported 3768 children and young people.

The last 12 months we have won a number of awards and accolades that back this up, including the
Yorkshire Forward Creating Better Future Awards 2010 and Business Link Social Enterprise Awards 2009. But even more important to me is the feedback form the schools we work in:

“The Reading Matters scheme not only improves the reading ability of all students involved, it also creates a fantastic reading culture, promoting responsibility and maturity”. Sheffield School Co-ordinator at
Firth Park Community College.

Like all everyone to continue to meet our objectives, Reading Matters is finding new and innovative ways of working and new partners such as the Summer Reading Challenge, Special Schools and Foster Carers. Having said that, we will be drawing the line at canine support.

Happy Christmas everyone.


Interplay Leeds Volunteer Reading Mentors Meeting

Last Thursday (9 December 2010) we held our latest meeting for Volunteer Reading Mentors and School Co-ordinators. The first thing to say is that it was very cold and very icy, so thanks to all those people that made it along. Leeds was Frozen.
We are very grateful to Steve Byrne and all the staff at Interplay for hosting us and supplying generous amounts of much needed tea, coffee and cake. The refreshments were not the main reason for travelling to Interplay however, we were there to hear about their latest project, which has potential for Reading Matters to work along side them in schools.

Interplay have been delivering a workshop in Special Schools that is based on the short Story Spit Nolan (Creative Short Stories), author of Alfie.

The workshops provide a thrilling and engaging sensory learning experience centred around the construction of old-fashioned go-carts that feature heavily in the story.

We are hoping that as Interplay take the workshops to more schools, Reading Matters will provide Reading Mentors and/or Reading Leaders to sustain and embed the inspiration and enthusiasm generated by this exciting project.

At the same meeting I gave a short presentation about some recent developments at Reading Matters. I'll share these with you in a separate blog post very soon.


2010 Book Awards - Sheffield Children's Book Award and YoungMinds

Today (23/11/10), I was at the Sheffield Children's Book Award at the City Hall where the 2010 winners were announced. I am sure there will be an official announcement with all the winners, but here is a hint - Morris the Mankiest Monster by Giles Andeae and Sarah McIntyre did really well.

It was a superb event the City Hall was full of kids shouting and screaming and stamping their feet for books and reading! I have never done so much clapping in one hour.

I was at the Children's Book award with some of the volunteers I had trained as
Volunteers for the Summer Reading Challenge. Both project are organised by the Sheffield Library Service, who deserve a lot of credit.

Another award I have been involved in was also announced this week. The 2010 YoungMinds Book Award was won by Siobhan Curham, author of Dear Dylan.

There is a lovely post on Siobhan Curham's own blog about the award. She writes about how she struggled with a lack of confidence, and that 'I love being able to go into schools and tell the least confident of kids, ‘if I can do it then so can you.’ It is quite emotional and the blog post after she won is even more so.

I think our Reading Matters Mentors can also play a big part in boosting the self-esteem of struggling students, the comments on Siobham's blog show what a difference it can make.


Request - Books with a local connection.

I was in Cromford at the weekend. I notice an advert for Derbyshire Reading Detectives. I checked it out and it's a fantastic project, plotting books with a Derbyshire connection on an online map.

When writing about Meet Me by the Steel Men, I suggested books with a local connection are great for use in reading partnerships.

I have a little list of Sheffield and Rotherham ideas, but I would love to hear some more. I have set-up a Discussion on Reading Matters Facebook Page for people to add their suggestions. Please come and join in!


Twocking by Eric Brown - Barrington Stoke Book 36

Twocking by Eric Brown is quite a controversial book. A story about stealing cars with a stated reading age of 8 years, but crucially the Interest age is 14+.

There is death and tragedy from the very first paragraph, which sets the tone of the story to follow. With Chapter 2 dealing with sex, drugs, drink and violence. Joey is very simply lead astray by Emma, it could be lust or drink that is the cause, but probably just boredom. "Bradford Council closed the rec" says Joey, but it's no real excuse for what happens, as Joey and Emma begin
Twocking - T(aking) W(ithout) O(wner's) C(onsent), ie. nicking cars.

The Bradford setting makes it very close to home for me (
Reading Matters head office is in Bradford), as they speed out of the city and onto the moors.

Things escalate when Emma starts doing drug runs for local small-time gangster Skelly. The ending is simply horrific; heroin, and car accidents and more.

I can see why such a book isn't always going to be appropriate. It's such serious subject matter, for such a readable, accessible book. But the morals are right there are ramifications from all of Joey's actions.

There is a very smart review from what sounds like a, Reading Mentor, and her partner
over on Amazon that really backs up the fact that this is a challenging book, but that is just what makes it attractive, especially to read in a partnership.


Dream On by Bali Rai - Barrington Stoke Book 35

Dream On by Bali Rai has a lot of elements that indicate it is going to be a bit of a cliched 'multi-cultural' story, but this turns out to be completely wrong. Baljit's family run an Indian take away, but it's a fish and chip shop. There is family tension, but there are no arranged marriages. They suffer racism, but authority figures step in to deal with it. And these themes aren't even the heart of the story.
Dream On is all about Baljit's attempts to be a top-flight footballer, and as he says "I never see even one Indian playing the football". A brilliant turn-of-phrase, and the book is full of them. I learnt a few Indian slang words myself ("Chadd deh" means "leave it"!). As a result the dialogue is really sharp, and the relationships between mates, school staff and family members highly believable. Baljit's Dad uses"innit", but this doesn't stop the youngsters taking the mickey.

The endearing characters mean the football trials are nail-biting affairs, they are really well described. However, the story could end any way, and it wouldn't matter because it is the personalities Bali Rai has created that matter most.

[The publishers, Barrington Stoke, produce a pack of resources to accompany Dream On, which look like they are worth checking out.]


Kelham Island Museum Volunteer Reading Mentors Meeting

Today (19/10/10) we had a super meeting for Volunteer Reading Mentors in Sheffield and Rotherham at Kelham Island Museum guests of the Sheffield Industrial Museum Trust .

It was the normal opportunity to meet other Reading Mentors, collect resources and have a cup of tea. But the main attraction was an introduction by Kirsten Timms, Education Officer of Sheffield Industrial Museum Trust about the 'Changing Face of Work in Sheffield' Pods.

The pods are fantastic packages of information, archives, resources and articles from the museum's collection. They wonderfully contrast aspects of work in Sheffield over the last 200 years. They are available for schools to use and explore, especially when combined with visits to the museum.

For our Reading Mentors they introduced a new angle on reading activities (and some old favourites), and perhaps more importantly reminded us of the living history of South Yorkshire's industry, and the passion it can inspire.

The aim of the meeting was to explore the possibility of Reading Matters volunteers accompanying the pods when the go to schools, to help the staff and pupils get the most out of them and support their use with a programme of reading sessions. If you would like to take part in such a scheme, please do get in touch.

Reading Leaders at Seven Hills Special School

Just a quick post, last week I trained a bunch of new Reading Leaders from Seven Hills Special School. I said that I would be writing to say how awful it had been and how I never want to work with them again! In fact I'll be back in a couple of weeks, to present the previous Reading Leaders with their certificates from the Open College Network.

I am second on the bill to the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, just like I was at the Summer Reading Challenge Celebration.

I hope to catch-up with the new Reading Leaders too, they were a great bunch and I am sure they are going to do a great job with their reading partners. It was interesting working with children from the 'special' school. They had all the same questions and ideas as anyone else. And they read exactly the same sort of things; Facebook, Sports Pages, Tracey Beaker etc. In fact they were a lot more enthusiastic than some of the ultra-cool older Reading Leaders from mainstream schools.


Turnaround by Alison Prince - Barrington Stoke Book 34

I am not sure Barrington Stoke are still publishing Turnaround by Alison Prince, which is a shame because it's a very short touching read.

At face-value Kerry has a lovely life helping out her parents B&B. She organises the 'turnarounds' of visitors. But, behind the scenes, family life is very traumatic. This is made worse because no one wants to face up to it. Tellingly, breakfasts are eaten in silence.

Paul comes to stay and Kerry develops a new relationship. In the end, with Paul's help Kerry must face up to the problems in her life; alcoholism and depression.

It is heavy subject matter, but handled very well. The characters are very believable. I like Kelly's Gran, she's a Beach Boys fan! The first two thirds of the book let you get to know these sympathetic characters, so when the drama arrives in the final third you really feel for them.

Things do not end perfectly, but necessary corrections are made, as Kerry says "the turnaround always seem to take ages".


Booked Up at Newfield and Crookes in the Library

Last Friday (1/10/10) , I visited my friend Louise at Newfield School. As well as giving me some top tips for future reading (Something Wickedly Weird by Chris Mould, Tanglewreck by Jeanette Winterson and Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestley amongst others) she also reminded me about the fantastic Booked Up programme.

Booked Up is organised by the Book Trust and delivered through schools. It allows Year 7 pupils to choose a free book from a specially selected list. The whole project is mainly promoted by school librarians like Louise, but the website is well worth a look. The list of books is always great, their are some nice pages and ideas for parents and carers and interactive tools, games and competitions for participating young people.

After my Newfield visit I was off to Sheffield Town Hall for a little celebration event for the young volunteers I had trained as part of the Summer Reading Challenge. I'll give a bit more info and some images when I get them through. Safe-to-say it was a splendid evening the volunteers were all quietly brilliant and I met the Lord Mayor too. The volunteers all got free tickets to The Crookes gig that was happening in the Library that evening. I heard the band on 6Music the next day - a very literary bunch they sounded too. I didn't go to the gig, but I did get a flyer!

Gigs in libraries - I love it!


Mina's views on school

I have just been reading Skellig by David Almond. I can't believe I haven't read it before. It is truly one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long while. I was reminded to pick it up of the shelf by the recent publication of My Name is Mina, a sort of prequel that I will definitely be getting hold of.

Mina is a key character in Skellig; the strongest personality in the book. I particularly like her views on school. Her friend Michael brings home a book from school with a red sticker on the back. "It's for confident readers" he explains. "What if other readers want to read it?" she responds. Quoting Tyger, Tyger by William Blake she goes on to ask "Is that for the best readers or the worst readers? Does that need a good reading age?"

David Almond was a primary teacher, and obviously has a view on this sort of thing. I really agree with Mina. I get hung up on reading ages tests and interest levels, when sometimes we just need to focus on interest and excitement of books and other reading materials.

There has been a lot of focus recently about teaching boys. I get frustrated when any groups of children are spilt up based on something as arbitrary as gender. Lots of girls like climbing trees and lots of boys like cooking, it's impossible to generalise in this way. A particular bug-bear of mine are gender specific book covers. Just like we can't find any Clarks shoes for our daughter that aren't pink, it's hard to find a Jacqueline Wilson book that a boy is going to pick up of the library shelf, but I know a lot would get a lot out of them.


Meet me at the Steelmen (Meadowhall)

Yesterday, I met some Reading Matters collegaues at Meadowhall. Firstly I couldn't believe how busy it was on a Monday morning.

Secondly it reminded me of a book I have been meaning to blog about. Meet me by The Steelmen, is one of four Time Slip adventures by Theresa Thomlinson. In these stories children are whisked off to times past due to a historical connection with a place they visit. In Meet me by The Steelmen Jenny visits the steelmen from the statue in the shopping centre, in their own time at Hadfield's Steelworks which stood on the site Meadowhall was built.

The books are beautifully done, making strong connections between modern children and somewhere they might visit. The short lengths, accessibility and use of illustrations makes them similar to the excellent Barrington Stoke books I have been reviewing.

The other title I have read, with another Sheffield link, is Errand Lass. A painting in the Millennium Galleries, transports Maddy back to the time of the Buffer Girls. The experience gives her to courage to deal with issues in her own life. Great Stuff.

I think a book or any sort of reading material that a reader can relate to is going to be ideal for a reading partnership. I have added a few more books with a Sheffield/Rotherham connection to our Amazon store. Let me know if you have other similar ideas.

[pic credit: lovestruck94]


Problems with a Python by Jeremy Strong - Barrington Stoke Book 33

I love the way Problems with a Python starts, with a great big full-page illustration that really sets the scene. The text gets going quickly too. Gary is going away for a week so Adam nervously agrees to look after his pet snake. Safe to say the week does not go smoothly!

As you'd expect from Jeremy Strong it is written in a very jokey way, but still very believable and factually specific (it's an Indian Python). All the characters are excellent. I personally really related to Rob, the Weedy boyfriend of Adam's big sister. The snake is scary enough but Emma is worse! Adam himself is easy to empathise with, he is so naughty, it's hard to believe he gets away with it.

Adam is in Year 6 and I think this is the perfect sort of age range for readers. The story is just on the edge of believability, I know children of this age would love the idea of loosing a snake in their school.


Rose and Roald - Two important birthdays

Today, 13 September, is my daughter Rose's second birthday. It is also the day Roald Dahl was born. I am very pleased that every year Rose will be sharing her birthday with Roald Dahl Day.

A key part of Roald Dahl Day in 2010 is the Roald Dahl Reading Relay; read three Roald Dahl books during September to December. The first 5,000 entrants win an exclusive I'm a Revolting Reader badge.

The Reading Zone has a great list of some of the other activities taking place.


Bloodlines by Kevin Brooks - Barrington Stoke Book 32

After the previous Kevin Brooks book I read, Jonhny Delgado, Bloodline had a lot to live up to. And it does, the story zips along like a Danny Boyle film.

Actually, the first Chapter starts very slowly, four generations of men bored in a dark room.But by the end of the chapter they are in a full-blown hostage situation.

It's a real chapter book, with cliff-hangers and chapter titles taken from the text. There is also a bit of swearing and no pictures, so definitely for older readers.

Finbar is our 15 year-old narrator, he tells the tale of the beautiful kidnapper with a very insightful voice. There are some great descriptions, grandad gets up like a "skinny old monster wearing a cardigan". None of the characters are the stereotypes I expected, at one point grandad states "I didn't ask to be born", That's something you'd expect from the teenager, but Finbar seems like the most good-hearted member of the whole family.

The five people in the story are all deeply flawed, and everyone has been double-crossed before the story plays out. I like the fact that even by then end, we are not sure if Finbar has done the right thing or not.

My only criticism is the cover, I don't think it really reflects what the story is all about, which is a shame, because it's great.


8 September is International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day. Founded by UNESCO, International Literacy Day raises awareness of the importance of literacy across the globe.

The TES have a nice set of resourses to celebrate the day.


Mood Boosting Books for World Mental Health Day

To prepare for World Mental Health Day on 10 October why, check out the selection of Mood Boosting Books on the BBC Headroom pages.

Put together by the Reading Agency, it is a great list for adult readers. Maybe you could think of other titles for younger readers?


Runaway Teacher by Pete Johnson - Barrington Stoke Book 32

Another Pete Johnson book, Runaway Teacher, and just like the others I have read recently, it's a perfectly drawn and believable scenario. Scott and Martin's class have seen-off two English teachers already this year. But 'MT' is different (the use of his initials is a compromise between 'Sir' and his first name). Scott in particular forms a real bond with this new style teacher.

Whether trickery or inspiration, MT gets the most out of his new class. But not every one sees it in the same way. His rebellious streak does not go down well with the Headmaster and some of the pupils' parents.

There are some great quotes. When Scott meets MT in town with his girlfriend, she says "He's been in that library for hours - it's like his second home" (my girlfriend has said very similar things about me, and I am guessing the author can relate to this too).

After this meeting in town, Scott gets to know MT out of school too, they seem to have a lot in common. The relationship is mutually beneficial. But perhaps too close for a teacher and his pupil.

The book shows, in a simple but brilliant way, that teachers are human beings too. Over the course of just 87 pages the relationship between Scott and MT becomes pretty intense. Scott says towards the end "you treated us like mates last night. And we let you down" which shows that MT needs Scott as much as Scott needs MT. There is never going to be a big happy ending. But everyone, including the reader, learns a lot.


The Best Holiday Ever by Pete Johnson - Barrington Stoke Book 31

Just like I have over-dosed on Alan Gibbons recently, I have had a bit of a run on Pete Johnson. I see his books everywhere, so thought I best check them out. The TV Time Travellers has been shortlisted for the Sheffield Children's Book Award Shortlist 2010 and How to Get Famous was the Community Library favourite last year. I can recommend both of these slightly longer books set today, in realistic settings with characters that are very easy to relate to.

The Best Holiday Ever is no different. It is a very easy to read story about three girls on holiday on there own for the first time. These three different characters are just like any girls of a certain age and anyone can identify with their exploits. Having said that, the book is going to be mostly for girls who are just getting a desire for more independence.

There is not much of a plot to The Best Holiday Ever, but as the girls holiday develops it is fun to read how their personalities and relationships to each other change. It is amazing to think it is written by a middle aged man, but Mr Johnson has a real knack for getting into the minds of his teenage characters. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books.


Night Hunger by Alan Gibbons - Barrington Stoke Book 30

I said I had been reading a lot of Alan Gibbons recently, and here is another. Night Hunger is a classic Barrington Stoke book. It is very short and written in the first-person, so we get very direct story-telling with no words wasted. We learn first hand about 16 year old John's mental state. But this is not just a bad case of puberty, John has the Hunger!

Even before John meets sexy, disturbing Beth, he is going through some changes, especially in his diet. He eats anything and everything. But when Beth gets her hands on him, things get a lot more serious. There are some vivid descriptions of meals of raw steak and chicken bones. I'm vegetarian, so might be particularly sensitive, but I think most readers will find it pretty gross (and therefore a possible reason to read the book!) Next come dreams, which are all too real. More vivid descriptions, this time of Beth as a predator-hunter.

This is all really entertaining and gripping but the seriousness of the story really goes up a gear in the second half of the book. I am not going to spoil it, but what happens to one of John's teachers, comes as quite a shock, especially at it is told to us directly by John.

A "thirst for blood" builds to a party on the night of the full moon. A night of lust and fear. John has to manage his out-of-control instincts and "fight the hunger". It does not end with out some blood being spilled.

The issues (girls, school, bodily changes etc.) and the gory nature make this perfect for 15-16 year olds, looking for a grizzly tale. My stomach turned, but I couldn't put it down.


The Greatest by Alan Gibbons - Barrington Stoke Book 29

Another Alan Gibbons book, he is certainly versatile. The Greatest is in Barrington Stoke's FYI range, that's 'Fiction with Stacks of Facts', like The Number 7 Shirt I reviewed previously.

I think the FYI books are perfect for reading partnerships. I can imagine a partner reading the main story and a reading mentor reading the more tricky fact bits. These two styles are nicely separated by different fonts.

The Greatest is all about Ali, a twelve year old Muslim boy, who has had his bike stolen by a local bully. Just like Muhammad Ali! With the greatest boxer of all time as inspiration, Ali takes on the biggest fight of his life. He'll be up against the racist bully that nicked his bike.

The first half of the book is the big build up to the match. Not much happens but we learn a lot about Ali and the tension builds nicely. The rest of the book is the fight itself. This feels very well judged with the bulk of the book centred on the crucial match.

Muhammad Ali often won despite the odds, using brains as well as strength. He knew he was an inspirational figure. By the end of this story not only has Ali's life changed, but the life of his bully opponent has been altered too.

It is clear author, Alan Gibbons, has a deep passion for Ali, as he says Muhammad Ali is "much more than just a sports man"! This is born out in the facts and fiction in The Greatest.


The Cold Heart of Summer by Alan Gibbons - Barrington Stoke Book 28

I have read a few Alan Gibbons books recently, including Shadow Of The Minotaur, which I have been meaning to check out since he talked about it at our Reading Matters event last year.

The Cold Heart of Summer is shorter, but not too dissimilar to Shadow Of The Minotaur. Both are 'horror' stories and feature children with troubled lives. Debbie is the heroine of The Cold Heart of Summer. Debbie and her Dad are fixing up 'The Grange'. They are desperate for the cash so much stick with it even when the houses murderous past comes back to haunt them.

It is very similar to The House with No Name which I have reviewed before, and it is also reminiscent of The Shining; families changing in disturbing surroundings.

The Cold Heart of Summer is a basic horror story but (as in Shadow Of The Minotaur) you can also see that the real fear comes from the characters having to adjust to unfamiliar family life. However you read it, it will grip you to the end.


Virtual Friend by Mary Hoffman - Barrington Stoke Book 27

Virtual Friend by Mary Hoffman felt familiar to me because the first illustration is one Reading Matters often uses in training sessions. It turns out the theme of book is very similar to the areas we explore using the illustration. Ben is an only child, his Mum has died recently and his Dad has buried himself in his work. They have moved to a new town, so Ben has started at a a new school late in the term and has not made any friends.

Ben and his Dad are befriended by the mad professor next door. They use his latest invention, a Virtual Reality programme. Ben creates a new best friend, Rory Polestar, who is all too real to him. When the power is lost Ben experiences a real sense of loss.

To Ben's surprise and confusion, next day, Rory turns up at school! No one is sure who is real and who's not. Rory helps Ben break the ice with the other kids. This is all he needs. When Rory 'goes home' only Ben remembers him. But all his new friends are still there.

It's a really sweet little story, I really felt for Ben. The illustrations, by Shaun McLaren, give a real window into the story and themes too. Which is why we use one of them in our training!


Summer Reading Challenge Sheffield Volunteers

This week I trained 20 young people from Sheffield, who have volunteered to help young visitors to Sheffield libraries take part in the Summer Reading Challenge. It is such a great project to be involved with.

This years theme is Space Hop, and the libraries are full of spacey resources, and there are plenty of activities to take part in.

The enthusiastic bunch of volunteers I trained were mainly recruited from schools (Meadowhead, Tapton, Birley and Fir Vale were particularly well represented). They are going to be helping out at the Sheffield Central Children's , Woodseats and Broomhill libraries. So naturally these are the best places to visit, but the Summer Reading Challenge is a national programme, so why not head down to your local library and get involved.

I have just spotted a great article that shows the benefit of summer reading like this, the Kids Lit Blog reports on an American study that has proven that summer reading has a very positive impact for children who participate.


Horner Brothers and Reading Matters win Creating Better Future Awards with Yorkshire Forward Result

I'm really please to say Reading Matters won a Creating Better Future Awards with Yorkshire Forward earlier this month. The award is in recognition for our partnership with Horner Brothers Print Group.

Since 2008 Horner Brothers staff have been attending Brinsworth Comprehensive School to carry out reading sessions with pupils. It has been a brilliant success for everyone involved and I have been really pleased to be involved. Long may it continue!

The awards were presented by Michelle Mone OBE, she said:
“The winners have all demonstrated inspirational partnership working, and their awards recognise the dedication and passion of those involved in each project.”


Dick Turpin: Legends and Lies by Terry Deary - Barrington Stoke Book 26

Terry Deary is famous for the incredibly popular Horrible Histories series. Horrible Histories and their spin-offs are great for reading partnerships. Plenty of grizzly facts and information, and the non-fiction format means you can dip in and out.

Dick Turpin: Legends and Lies, is a bit different. A fictionalised telling of the hanging of Highwayman Dick Turpin. Told in the first person by a poor boy aged about 12 who probably shouldn't be watching a hanging at all. He learns about Turpin's life from the other crowd members. Opinions are mixed from the very start, is he a hero or a villain?

This story-within-stories approach is very fitting for a man who was such a myth, even whilst he was alive. It is very hard to get a picture of the real man. An epilogue shows that most of the story is based on facts that have been twisted over time.

The hanging does not bring the revenge people want, just more bitterness. Even after his death, Turpin's story is not simple. His body is stolen from it's grave. A crime our narrator gets very involved in. There are some nice historical details, and plenty of gruesomeness. But they aren't the main reason to keep reading, because it is an enthralling story from beginning to end.

In doing a bit of research I looked-up Terry Deary's website. It has a whole load of resources that you could use in reading partnerships; jokes, recipes, songs, plays, quizzes, stories and more. Great stuff.


A few football reading resources

I have been going on about football a lot recently, my last review was a football story. But the World Cup means (almost) everyone is hooked on the sport.

At both the
Inspired for Life event in Rotherham and a celebration event at Sheffield Town Hall for Volunteer Reading Mentors last Friday, I talked to people about engaging reluctant readers. We found football was often a great 'hook' . I thought I would list a few of the resources I have found that can work really well:


The Dirty Dozen by Tony Bradman - Barrington Stoke Book 25

With the World Cup still in full swing, I picked a football themed book to review next, The Dirty Dozen by Tony Bradman.

Robbie gets his mates together as a football team. But his motivation is not what it appears. He wants to get into another team of richer kids, who snubbed him before.

Robbie's team-mates aren't stupid and they realise Robbie is not the team player he pretends to be. His best friend Gary is involved for the right reasons, and he takes over the coaching. Gary feels betrayed by Robbie.

Robbie realises he is behaving just the same as the spoilt brats he was trying to beat.

You can probably guess how it all ends, but there are some very well described episodes to get to a feel-good conclusion. The Dirty Dozen is a short book with plenty of pictures.; perfect for a bit of World Cup inspired reading.

For more Football Reading activities, see some of by previous posts:


Man of Steel - Inspired for Life at Magna

This weekend I was at Magna in Rotherham for the Inspired for Life event. We had a little stall and ran some workshops for the carers who came along. One of the speakers was Lemn Sissay, he pointed out that most of our superheroes are foster kids:
  • Superman
  • Harry Potter
  • James (and the Giant Peach)
  • Pippi Longstocking
  • Batman
We celebrate these guys, but as a society are fearful of anyone 'in care'.

I thought it was a great point. Then I spotted one such Foster Carer in 'Man of Steel' Superman T-shirt . How perfect; celebrating superhero foster kids in Magna an ex steel works.


L-L-L-Loser by Catherine Forde - Barrington Stoke Book 24

A common feature of Barrington Stoke books is a short introductory note by the author. Catherine Forde writes one for L-L-L-Loser. You don't have to read it to enjoy the story, but it feels like a personal message from the author to the reader, which I really like.

This personal tone continues in the story itself, which is told directly by John with a sense of familiarity. This is enhanced with some nice use of fonts, punctuation and page design.

John thinks he is incredibly cool, he is in a band and pretty good-looking. In contrast, his brother and his mate are deeply uncool Star Wars geeks. This is true, but John might not have the full picture.

John's one-sided take really adds to the drama of, what turns out to be, a pretty fantastic adventure. The geeks end up on telly, and no one is sure if this makes them cool or not.

The distinctive voice, design tricks and flawed perspective means any reader needs to concentrate to keep up. But if you can, L-L-L-Loser will certainly keep you entertained. If you are reading in a partnership L-L-L-Loser will give plenty to talk about (not least, lots of pop culture references and brands that older readers may need some help with)!


Them and Us by Bali Rai - Barrington Stoke Book 23

As I mentioned in my last post I am taking the books long-listed for the YoungMinds Book Award to Meadowhead school for the Reading Leaders to review. I thought I would sneak a look at Them and Us by Bali Rai for my latest Barrington Stoke review.

I am not surprised
Them and Us is up for an award. Bali Rai, has a deep understanding of how to construct a thought-provoking story in the quick read format. Them and Us is just 85 pages, (all the other long-listed books are about 200 pages or more).

Bali Rai has written five books for Barrington Stoke with more on the way, he is an expert in writing short, powerful books. Them and Us is no exception. Unusually it starts in a low-key way. Page one is mostly concerned with house work. By page three we get drink, drugs, domestic violence and, crucially, racism.

David moves to a new flat and a new school to escape his abusive father. He is a white kid in a black neighbourhood. He suffers racist abuse, and when his dad catches up with him he must deal with intolerance on both sides.

The subtle details really make the story for me. David lives with his single mum and is often on his own whilst she works shifts. He is amazed at his Asian friend's home of three generations. Similarly the real trouble starts with a silly argument about Christmas.

Them and Us is a great read that handles the difficult subject matter perfectly. It seems like there will be no end to the cultural clashes. The book doesn't offer a happy-ever-after ending, but David and his mates definitely point the way forward for all of us.