Opportunities for Sheffield Volunteer Reading Mentors

A quick post for volunteer reading mentors in Sheffield, or for that matter any volunteers in Sheffield.
I have had a little bit of involvement with the Sheffield Volunteering Strategy (here is a picture to prove it) it is an excellent and realistic project. The team involved are looking for Volunteering Ambassadors to sing the praises of being a volunteer in Sheffield.

Another event that you might like to get involved with; next Tuesday 30 March 2010, Voluntary Action Sheffield (VAS) are hosting a Meet the Candidates - Election Question Time. Nicola Bates for the Conservatives in Sheffield Hallam, and Paul Blomfield for Labour in Sheffield Central will be meeting local volunteers after the event to find out more about what Sheffield volunteers do to help local people and why their work is important.

If you are volunteer in Sheffield why not head along and speak to Nicola and Paul, see Clare Walsh's post for more information.


Snapshot by Robert Swindells - Barrington Stoke Book 10

The last book I blogged about Devil For Sale, was by a relatively new author, and I think it showed. In contrast Robert Swindells is incredibly prolific and really knows his stuff, and it is evident throughout the fantastic Snapshot.

From the title of the first Chapter, 'Happy Deathday', onwards, Snapshot grips. Our first-person narrator, Victor, has a real presence and a beautiful turn-of-phrase; "It had been like trying to push a peanut up Mount Everest with my nose"! And the tower block setting is very atmospherically described as street lights shine through the drizzle.

The story is a thriller, with a dramatic conclusion. There are the usual chases and escapes, but not the normal characterisations. The police are pretty helpful and friendly, and the criminals not necessarily evil, just dim. Similarly there are real implications to Victor's actions, that are not usually seen in generic crime stories; the effects on family, friends and the community are real and drastic.

My only issue is that Victor did not use his mobile while being chased, but mobile phones are the bane of a lot of thriller writers, so I'll let it go and fully recommend Snapshot.


The Monster Republic By Ben Horton - Random House Review by Reading Leader, Sabeela Mahmood from King Ecgbert School

The second in our set of reviews of Random House books by Reading Leader, Sabeela Mahmood from King Ecgbert School.

The Monster Republic
By Ben Horton


The story is about a boy called Cameron who is in an accident and finds that someone has made changes to his body giving him amazing capabilities.


The main characters are Cameron, Rora, Dr Fry Carla and The Monster Republic


The book was very good. The plot was fripping. You don’t know what happens until the very end. It is a great way to start off a series. The topic of the story isn’t new but the way it is written makes it unique. The only thing that could be improved is the beginning. It rushes into the story so quickly and it could be longer. Also the character, Cameron, accepts what his is way too quickly. But overall it’s an amazing book.

By Sabeela Mahmood


Gotta Keep Reading Video

It is total American cheese, but I just love this video. The thought of a school dedicating so much time and effort to get 800 kids dancing along to a song about the joys of reading is great.


Devil For Sale by E. E. Richardson - Barrington Stoke Book 9

At our reading mentors meeting last week Barrie from the publishers Barrington Stoke spoke about how they go for direct impact in their books; using renowned authors, engaging covers, punchy first lines and not avoiding edgy subject matter.

Inspired by this I looked for the edgiest Barrington Stoke book I could spot on my shelf. I went for Devil For Sale by E. E. Richardson. It was certainly unsettling with a certain menace, but I was a little disappointed. It has a very straight-forward plot with only one key character who I didn't feel I got to know too well.

The evil devil of the title has a few moments of scariness. But with all horror or sci-fi books, I am put-off when fantastical happenings are just explained as magic or evil. It feels like a cop-out and I need to know a little more.

Devil For Sale is the first Barrington Stoke book I have read that does not have any illustrations. They may have been going for a more adult feel, but I would have liked to see a smart illustrators take on the story.

It is, of course, a well produced, gripping read, it just didn't hit the spot for me; diet Darren Shan.


The Toymaker By Jeremy De Quidt - Random House Review by Reading Leader, Sabeela Mahmood from King Ecgbert School

A few weeks back I was sent a stack of new books from Random House. I passed these on to King Ecgbert School, to be reviewed by our Reading Leaders there. Well I got the reviews this week and to my astonishment they are all by the same Reading Leader, Sabeela Mahmood. What an accomplishment; these are not short, simple books.

To do justice to Sabeela’s reviews I will post them up one at a time once a week or so.


The Toymaker
By Jeremy De Quidt


The story is about a boy called Mathias who finds a hidden piece of paper inside the collar of his dying granddad’s coat. Then he has to run because of the many people who would love to have that piece of paper. Along the way he meets a girl out for revenge, a friend of a strange type of people called Burners and his jealous brother.


The main characters are Mathias, Katta, Koenig, Stefan, Anna-Maria, Lutsmann and Dr Lieter.


The book was an intriguing story. It kept me hooked. The plot had many twists and turns and it’s a book that you can’t put down. The words used by the author are not complicated so it is very suitable for all teenagers. I would definitely recommend this to other readers. The only thing that could be made better was the ending. It isn’t a very satisfying ending. You don’t know what happens to some characters when they leave the building. But apart from that a very worthwhile read.

By Sabeela Mahmood


A week and a day

So Thursday was World Book Day and, perhaps as a result, my week has been incredibly busy with all manner of reading based activity:
  • I have been back to Sheffield University where I was a student, training current students to be reading mentors in Sheffield primary schools. They will be helping children be Book Busters; an ESCAL (Every Sheffield Child Articulate and Literate) project in conjunction with Sheffield School Library Service.
  • Our new Care2Read course begun last week with a group of foster parents at the fostering service. I am always so amazed by foster carers; taking on children of different ages and backgrounds and with such different needs, often as well as their own children. They are so dedicated to the children they care for they're going to make perfect reading partners. They are also able to inspire new reading partnerships; I heard about older children reading with the younger ones. Great stuff.
  • On Monday 1 March we had our regular termly meeting for reading mentors. I always enjoy catching up with people who I do not see enough of. And this time we had a great presentation from Barrie from Barrington Stoke. He completely re-affirmed my love for their range of books. He showed us how everything is so carefully prepared; the covers, the font used, the editing process with young people, paper quality and all other aspects of the publishing system. It results in a perfect range of books. Check out one of their newest ranges, the Five Lords of Pain.
  • On the day of World Book Day, Thursday 4 March, I was training a group of primary school staff to run their own Reading Matters volunteer reading mentors project in school. It is a nice session and I always get lots of new ideas.
  • World Book Day itself has some great activities as usual, for example games and resources on their website. I was in my favourite book shop, Scarthin Books, at the weekend, they had a nice display of the current batch of £1 World Book Day books.
  • Finally, I am preparing for a set of training courses this week and next. Getting a bunch of new mentors up-to-speed, and a bit of a refresher for longer-term mentors next week.
It is so good to be involved with all these fantastic activities, all Reading Matters mentors and trainees are always so enthusiastic and full of ideas and inspiration for getting children reading.