World Book Night 2012

You may have been involved in World Book Night in 2011, I certainly was and it was great! A rather important due date means I won't be signing up as giver for 2012, but might want to? If so we could help you get the books to our network of volunteer reading mentors, schools and settings.

There are certainly some interesting books on the 2012 list. Although I'd still like to see more titles aimed at a young audience, the US list at least includes The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.


New Baby - Little Parachutes

My start with Reading Matters was two weeks after the birth of my first daughter, Rose, see my very first blog post. Well three years later, a new baby is on the way:

It is exciting times, I may not be to coherent around the end of April!

To prepare Rose for becoming a big sister I have been looking for reading recommendations. The Little Parachutes website, in conjunction with the local library, has proved really useful. Little Parachutes provides suggestions for 'picture books to help with life's challenges' such as a new baby. I can really recommend The Perfect Baby by Tony Bradman and Holly Swain.

With other subjects including Hospitals/Operations, Fear of the Dark, Moving House, Starting School and Healthy Eating it is great for exploring issues with children via reading.


Wildlife Trust Wildlife Watch Magazine

My colleague, Diane, passed me her latest copy of Wildlife Watch Magazine, published by the Wildlife Trust. Both the magazine and the website are super and perfect for reading partnerships where a young person is interested in nature.

Both the website and magazine are really nicely presented with lots of colour, pictures and snappy bits of text to read.

The magazine has games, competitions and activities, this edition, Winter 2011 has a beautiful Red Squirrel poster too.

The website is full of interesting things to read and do, in particular:

All brilliant stuff, well worth checking out.


Learning is lovely: 12 days of Learning Pool gifts

I have just received the fifth gift from the Learning Pools 12 days of gifts. A really nice children's Christmas Activity Pack. Just right for reading partnerships. Whether it is Christmas or not The Learning Pool has all sorts of nice resources to check out.


Volunteering Fair at the Sinai Synagogue in Leeds

A message from Christine Elliott about the Volunteering Fair at the Sinai Synagogue that took place last week:
Thank you to all those who made the volunteering Fair at the Sinai Synagogue in Leeds such a great event last Sunday. The hosts were extremely welcoming and I am pleased that so many people came to our Reading Matters stand to find out what we did and what volunteering opportunities were available.There were a whole host of other organisations there so it was also beneficial to chat with other voluntary organisations. Our volunteers, Pat Reader, Joan Hick, Jenny Homes and Alison House did a brilliant job manning the stand and sharing their knowledge and I understand they all enjoyed the day so many thanks to them for giving up their time. The event was so successful I understand that the organisers are considering holding another one again next year.
 Christine Elliott, Reading Matters Volunteer Co-ordinator and Alison House Volunteer Reading Mentor at The David Young Academy


Reading Matters Continuing Professional Development Opportunities

Reading Matters has a new office in Sheffield. Scotia Works is a superb training venue and I hope we'll tempt some people to pay us a visit and to help boost literacy with these Continuing Professional Development opportunities. Alternative dates are available in Leeds and Bradford next year.

MANAGING READING MENTORS WORKSHOP    23 January 2012A half-day workshop to develop best practice recruiting, supporting and retaining volunteer reading mentors from the local community.“Exactly what I needed to give me confidence with the reading volunteers I have starting next week!” Cathy Hogg, Shortbrook Primary School, Sheffield
SUPPORTING READING DEVELOPMENT TRAINING         16 March 2012An interactive, accredited training day for professionals who support young people’s literacy. We’ll provide strategies to help tackle low levels of literacy and self-esteem, supporting reading development one-to-one or in groups.
“A fantastic day” Laura Benn, Wath Comprehensive School, Rotherham

Please download a poster with a little more info and/or a booking form to reserve a place.


Video Games

When trying to engage a struggling or reluctant reader, computer games can often be a less intimidating approach than a hefty tome or badly photo-copied activity sheet. I've spotted a few interactive online resources that might be of interest:
  • Root, an interactive spy story - This project started this week, new chapters of Root will be published every day for six weeks. Any one can get involved and influence the story by solving mysteries, foiling plans and eavesdropping into conversations!
  • The Binary - A brilliantly presented online adventure, like an interactive book.
  • Book Worm Adventures - A role-playing word game involving building words and battling monsters.
  • Build your own Book Mobile - This one is a bit more 'old school', download, cut out and stick together your own beautiful mobile library.
  • Word Fighter - This isn't out yet, but looks too cool for words (bad pun). 
I guess the inspiration for this post was the song I am kind of in love with at the moment, Video Games by Lana Del Rey. Song lyrics are another great idea to read with a partner, try googling their favourite song.

Have fun.


New Reading Matters Office in Sheffield

Reading Matters office in Sheffield has moved. We are now at:
Reading Matters
Scotia Works
Leadmill Road
S1 4SE
Tel: 0114 241 2743
Please update your address books.

This new location at Scotia Works is a wonderful location next to Sheffield Railway station, with some great training spaces that would be perfect for Reading Matters training. Reading Matters specialises in one-to-one support to motivate young people to reach their potential by becoming confident and enthusiastic readers. We provide support via:
  • adults as volunteer reading mentors
  • young people as reading leaders
  • parents and carers to help their own families
  • professional staff with a responsibility for literacy
Get in touch if this sounds of interest, it would be great to hear from you.


My Name is O by Sam Enthoven, and Pale by Chris Wooding

I have received proof copies of two dystopian stories out in January 2012,  My Name is O by Sam Enthoven, and  Pale by Chris Wooding.

My Name is O, is set entirely in the Bank of England as O tells the reader of his daring break-in and the reason for it. We learn directly from O that he/she "was born in a special breeding programme run by our secret masters", the implication is that the reader is as much a part of this controlled society as O. But O has been singled out for particular conditioning, but without his masters knowledge he has "built a personality". O starts out pretty cocky, but gets more and more out of his depth, he doesn't understand his situation as much as he thinks. It's a gripping tale, set over a short time period in a single location, but very much part of a wider, scary world.

In contrast Pale, covers a long time period. In fact Jed grows, dies and comes back to live another life within the 69 pages. It is set in another scary world, in a future where some people can be resurrected as Pales. The Pales are completely shunned by regular society; jealousy, fear and ignorance all play a part. Sometimes feelings are understandable, it's hard to argue with a statement like "dead kids shouldn't be allowed to go to school". But it's clear people need to learn to deal with these new members of society. Jed, our narrator sees both sides. I hope I am not spoiling it by telling you he dies on page 16! It is tale of violence, betrayal and hatred with a gripping conclusion of rescue and revelation.

In both books, and like in all good Science Fiction, they tell us as much about our own lives as those of the characters in the fantasy settings. Pale in particular seems to be all about current news-worthy themes of immigration, religious differences and human rights. I think they would provide lots of discussion in reading partnerships.


Sheffield Summer Reading Challenge Volunteer 2011

A few weeks ago we had a celebration event for the Sheffield Volunteers who supported the Summer Reading Challenge in 2011 and their parents. It was a great event. With each of the volunteers presented with a certificate and goodie bag by Dr Sylvia Dunkley, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield.
I have just got this great photo and a wonderful quote from one of the volunteers:
I want to say thanks to you [all] for the ceremony. It was a great and unforgettable experience.
I agree, it was a lovely evening. Everyone was great!


Free Copy of First News

First News is a brilliant weekly newspaper for young people, it's perfect for our reading partnerships. Full of topical articles presented really nicely with lots of images, graphics and accessible text.

Courtesy of Sainsbury's magazine you can get a free copy.

Call 0800 665480 and quote SBFREE or text NEWS to 78070 before 31 October 2011.

Another good deal is 3 issues for £1.

Reading Videos

A few videos I have spotted recently:
  • Inspiring Reluctant Readers - From the New York Times, authors James Patterson and Rick Riordan talk about the challenge of encouraging children, particularly boys, to love reading
  • Booked Up Film - New video featuring the Booked Up authors and 11-year-olds talking about the current selection of books
  • Going West - A wonderfully crafted video for the New Zealand Book Council, Where Books Come to Life!
  • Dyslexie is a typeface for dyslectics - Silent video with common issues encountered by people with dyslexia, and how a new font seeks to assist
I'll leave you with a beautifully designed video of the ubiquitous Stephen Fry talking of his love of language.


Thanks for Teaching Us

Just spotted this rather wonderful website campaign, Thanks for Teaching Us:
ThanksForTeaching.Us, a 30 day campaign to recognize amazing teachers all over the world. Our schools are in a tough spot right now, and we think there’s no better time to bring the spotlight back on the teachers that make our classrooms thrive.

Dear Great Teachers, ThanksForTeaching.Us from TBD on Vimeo.

The site is pretty inspiring, with beautiful posts from all over the world. Why not check it out and submit you own story, it would be great to get some UK schools represented.


Ninja: First Mission by Chris Bradford

Chris Bradford is quite an amazing guy, before becoming the hugely successful author of the Young Samurai series he was a professional musician, he is a black belt martial artist, he is funny (check out this video) and he is a nice guy too, all the proceeds for Ninja: First Mission are going to charity!

Naturally, hugely jealous, I really wanted to hate Ninja: First Mission, his first book for Barrington Stoke, but it is hard not to love it. 

The first of a series set in Japan in 1580. Taka is training to be a ninja. He is a little over-confident and the start to the story is not what you'd expect. The back story and setting is nicely woven into the story; we learn about his family history, clan, rivals, enemies, friends and training. Super language too, I love the sound of the 'Sixteen Secret Fists' technique.

The First Mission of the title, is a personal and significant challenge for Taka. We are not sure of his true motivation, is he being driven by or vengeance rather than dedication to his ninja clan? This truly adds to the thrill of the adventure.

I am very much looking forward to the continuing series. I enjoyed the realism and historical setting, a real contrast to the Lords of Pain series, and the manga-style illustrations are superb.

By the way, the video I mentioned above, is an introduction to the Ninja Challenge, a duelling card game to be played on or offline, looks brilliant for Reading Matters partnerships, more resources on the Chris Bradford website too.


The Gun by Bali Rai

Like The Fall by Anthony McGowan (reviewed recently) and Them and Us an earlier Bali Rai book (reviewed a while back) The Gun is a serious book for serious times.

The scene is set in the prologue, Jonas is in a police cell. The details are specific and telling; officials, fashions and smells. As Jonas begins his tale in Chapter 1, we know from the first line, the world he inhabits, "freezing our arses off outside Lahore Fried Chicken".

Jonas is not a bad kid but his situation in life means it is tough to avoid trouble. Especially when his best mate turns out to be worryingly crazy. Throw a loaded gun into the mix and things are never going to end well.

Their estate is always violent. Jonas and his mates dabble in gangs without getting sucked right in. But it is the gun than tips them over the edge.

In his intro Rai says the story was inspired by The Wire TV series. I am still having withdrawal symptoms after this ended, so I am bias. But, I have to say, in 65 pages Rai creates some moving characters and the journey they go on filled me with affection and dismay.


Sheffield Children's Book Award and Off the Shelf Festival 2011

Whilst at the Sheffield Children's Library I picked up a couple of leaflets giving details of the Sheffield Children's Book Award and Off the Shelf Festival 2011. Both look as excellent as ever.

Sheffield Children's Book Award

A nice line-up, although, if I am honest I haven't ready many at all. A few big names; Chris Riddell for Ottoline at Sea, David Walliams for Billionaire Boy, Terry Deary for Put Out the Light and Malorie Blackman for Boys Don't Cry. I'd like to mention a few local authors; Kevin Brooks for iBoy, Caryl Hart for Rhino, What Rhino and Alex T Smith for Egg.

But for me it is hard to look at anything except David Almond for My Name is Mina, a beautiful, beautiful tale, which I wrote about this time last year.

Off the Shelf Festival 2011

Like the book award, the festival has a real mix of interesting stuff;

I also notice a nice project A City Reads, mapping the books that have inspired the people off Sheffield. Pick up a programme and get involved.


Bookstart Book Crawl

This weekend, I was at Sheffield Children's Library. My daughter, Rose, completed her Bookstart Book Crawl. Part of the Summer Reading Challenge. Catching up with Alexis the Librarian it sounds like the Summer Reading Challenge Volunteers are doing a great job.

Alexis and Rose!


Booktrust Newsletter

I just received the latest Booktrust newsletter, I get a lot of email bulletins, but this one shone out.
Great stuff, sign up here.


Getting Linking 5 - Big Hitters

I have been tidying up my bookmarks (I live a very exciting life), it has inspired a long overdue return to my Getting Linking series. I previously posted up lots of links resources for use in Reading Matters one-to-one sessions. This time I have a list of websites from major institutions, that you may well know about, but are none-the-less useful.



Peter Pan and Book Drum

I have just finished reading Peter Pan by JM Barrie, can't believe I have't read it before. My motivation was to read it before moving on to Peter Pan in Scarlet by Geraldine McCaughrean, which has been on the shelf for a while.

I really don't know what to make of Peter Pan, I found it a very unsettling 'children's' book. This probably says a lot about me as the reader. Similarly, as many people have said before, Peter Pan is very much about the author's pre-occupations; "the desire for immortality, the urge to shirk responsibility and the role of motherhood". This is quote is taken form the Peter Pan entry on the the wonderful Book Drum website.

Book Drum offers comprehensive reading notes for a growing list of 'classic' books. Each book is covered by a dedicated fan including pictures, videos, maps and music.

I don't think Book Drum is going to be appropriate for the struggling and reluctant readers that Reading Matters supports, but I think our Reading Leaders and Reading Mentors, and anyone with a passion for reading will get a lot out of it.


The Fall by Anthony McGowan

I am back on track with my Barrington Stoke reviews. After the sweetness and light of Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton, The Fall by Anthony McGowan is dark, dark, dark.

From the start The Fall is obviously a denser book than most Barrington Stoke titles; no pictures, more words on a page and a harder use of language. By page five we have read about death, bullying and young offenders. By then end of chapter one I was thoroughly depressed and things do not get improve as the tory progresses.

This bleakness isn't a problem, the book is hugely relevant. I read it during the Summer 2011 riots, and it got to the centre of society's issues better than most media coverage I have seen. Dealing with the causes of young people's lack of morality and angst.

Mog, the narrator, has a poetic streak that is at odds with the tale he tells. There are flashes of brightness amongst the gloom; "like the colour turned into a feeling".

The book has a sense of reality that is quite disturbing. Something about the real sounding names, nick-names and places makes the violence and destruction even more shocking. A challenging read but very deep and very worthwhile.


Rugby World Cup 2011 Resources

In my spare time I like to shout at the TV in the hope the England Rugby team might live up to its potential.

With the 2011 Rugby World Cup on the horizon, why not download the National Literacy Trust Rugby World Cup Toolkit. It is aimed at schools, but has lots of great ideas and resources for reading mentors and families. It has been put together by Tom Palmer, who really knows his stuff, check out Scrum!.


Summer Reading Challenge 2011: Circus Stars

I finally got my daughter signed up for the Summer Reading Challenge. It's been running for a few weeks now through the summer holidays. We really do need to get reading!

Like last year I trained some young reading volunteers to work in libraries across Sheffield. And reports are they are really making a difference to the success of this year's Summer Reading Challenge.

This year's theme is Circus Stars. The website has some nice games, opportunities to chat and author videos, including my new friend Andy Stanton.

Get reading and get some fancy stickers!


Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton

After a full year of Barrington Stoke book reviews, I have not done any for months. What better way to get back on track with Sterling and the Canary by Andy Stanton author of my favourite Mr Gum Books.

It's all about Sterling Thaxton's attempts to get new girl Lizzie Harris to go out with him. A fairly standard sort of plot, but it's the language that makes the story fizz. Sterling "flopped around the house like a bored pancake", brilliant!

There are some great recurring jokes too. It starts raining every time Lizzie breaks Sterling's heart.

There is a super ending. With the the help of the Canary, Sterling realises what he actually wants has been right under his nose all along.

It feels like a modern take on a fable.  I had to re-read it immediately, it's the sort of book you have to read twice!

It's a hard book to review, I had to go back and take out a lot of my 'ironic' exclamation marks! I really like the way Andy Stanton writes. As you read the words just flow, but you can tell it is very carefully crafted. I loved it.


Involve Yorkshire and Humber - Swan Lake heads only!

I have been to a couple of Involve Yorkshire and Humber events recently, their Village hall to Whitehall: local government and the voluntary and community sector conference and Learning and Skills Voluntary Sector Network meeting. Both very interesting with lots of great people in attendance. 

The Village hall to Whitehall event was at the Northern Ballet in Leeds.  The post-lunch energiser was a heads-only version of Swan Lake. And inevitably this is the photo of me they have used.

No harm in looking a bit silly; here is Kate Winslet Reading one of my favourite Mr Gum books at the Port Eliot Festival in St Germans, Cornwall.


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library in Rotherham

One of our Reading Mentors just sent me this one-line email:
"I am sure you will have better things to do on a Saturday morning, but there is a programme at 10.30 on Radio 4 about what Dolly Parton has done for reading in Rotherham!!!" 
She couldn't be more wrong, I can think of no better way to spend a Saturday morning! I immediately looke for for some more info: BBC Radio 4 - How Dolly Got Rotherham Reading.
Thanks Anne.


Bideford Learning Community Book Relief Training July 2011

Last week I was in Bideford, North Devon, training 30 Volunteer Reading Mentors and School co-ordinators to begin reading sessions in Bideford Primary Schools in September.

We had a wonderful couple of training days full of enthusiasm and ideas, it was an inspiration, as was the Devon landscape.

Organised by the local Book Relief charity and The Bideford Learning Community, and funded by Awards for All and The Bideford Bridge Trust, I know the programme is going to be a huge success. I don't usually make a big deal of the end of training session evaluation forms, but there are some lovely comments from these particular days:
  • Excellent course, I feel very confident and very excited about becoming a Reading Mentor
  • Very useful and easy to understand. Will be able to use what I have learnt with confidence
  • Very useful information, relaxed atmosphere, friendly tutor
  • So encouraging, very informative and feel equipped to start reading mentoring
  • A great day full of good tips, knowledge and [I am] looking forward to starting
  • Encouraging, very informative - ready to put into practice at school.
  • Richard was very encouraging and a brilliant course leader, time passed very quickly and I've gained loads of useful skills today, thank you.
  • Tutor was very informative and was made to feel comfortable with what I was learning and doing
  • I am looking forward to being school co-ordinator for our mentors, very exciting!


ESCAL - Mad Hatters Talk Picnic and Presentation Afternoon

I am a bit late reporting, but 29 June 2011 was Communication Day in Sheffield, part of the National Year of Communication and Sheffield Children's Festival. The highlight was the Mad-Hatters Talk Picnic - Thosands of pupils having fun in the Peace Gardens:
Those are my photos, there is much better coverage at:
On the same day Reading Matters had a small stand at the Presentation Afternoon for council employees and ESCAL Partners at the Town Hall. It was a really nice event:


Wortley Hall Remembered - 7 July 2011

Some of our partner schools and Fay, one of our Reading Mentors, are involved in a Summer Show of drama, history and music at Wortley Hall on 7 July 2011. Sounds like a great evening out. Download a pdf programme.


Continued Professional Development Opportunity - Supporting Reading Development

one day accredited training course

11 July - Sheffield, Bannerdale Centre
14 July - Huddersfield, Brian Jackson House
An interactive training day for professionals who support children’s literacy:
  • Gain an insight into the literacy curriculum
  • Understand how children develop reading skills
  • Diagnose reading difficulties
  • Develop strategies to improve pupils’ reading skills and confidence
  • Develop experience and confidence in supporting pupils to become enthusiastic and confident readers
  • Analyse reading support practice
  • Prepare for NOCN Level 2 accreditation
  • Lunch and refreshments provided
Just £195 per person

Please contact 01274 692219 or info@readingmatters.org.uk

Download a poster [pdf] to display on your notice board. 


Book Relief - Community Volunteer Reading Mentors Programme in partnership with the Bideford Learning Community

Reading Matters will be delivering some accredited training and support sessions on 6 and 7 July to prepare Volunteer Reading Mentors to deliver reading sessions in Bideford schools.

It is an exciting new progamme organised by the Book Relief in partnership the Bideford Learning Community.

Full details are available on the Book Relief website. Do take a look, especially if you would like to become a Volunteer Reading Mentor in a Bideford school and really help to improve the reading skills and confidence of young people, and gain some valuable work experience and a national accreditation.


Dr. Seuss says Read Read Read

A wonderful letter with great advice from Dr. Seuss:

Sent in response to a Librarian in Troy, Michigan in 1971. Found with more letters on Jack Cheng's blog.


Reading Mentor Resources at Firth Park Community Arts College

I was at Firth Park Community Arts College last week, placing a new Reading Mentor. We explored all sorts of new resources including many for particularly reluctant or struggling readers. I wanted to share them with you:
I also learnt that the rather wonderful author, Malorie Blackman, is name checked in the song Written in the Stars by Tinie Tempah. How cool is that!


Peace in the Park Festival Self Help Africa Reading Aloud World Record Attempt

Via the Reading Zone Website, I learnt about a great event at my favourite local festival.

One of the chosen causes at the Peace in the Park Festival on 4 June 2011 in Sheffield is Self Help Africa. At the festival they are going to try and break the World Record for the most adults reading aloud to children.

They will be reading Lion Storyteller Bedtime Book led by story-teller Shona Leigh, and will be attended by adjudicators acting on behalf of the Guinness Book of Records.

I go to the festival most years, it is always great fun. This year sounds especially good!


Reading - Fun Stuff

I haven't posted for a while. So to get back in the swing of things. Here are some fun/silly things about reading I have spotted recently.
Attack of Literacy! T- Shirt
Available now from the rather marvelous Threadless website.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid Poptropica Game
Play as Greg and in other games on the Poptropica site!

The Great Dr Seuss Read Aloud Competition
Enter a video, win prizes (or just watch)!

Captain Kirk - should have been a librarian!

Confessions of a Book Fiend
Available as a print from Incidental Comics.


Books = Good | Games = Bad !

An interesting response to a new British Cohort Study by Mark Taylor of Nuffield College, Oxford. The project analysed data from 17,200 people, looking at which activities they did in their spare time for pleasure at age 16 in 1986, responses were checked against the jobs they were doing at the age of 33, in 2003. The resulting headlines show the various interpretation of outcomes:

It's a timely study as sales of electronic books overtake physical versions in the US, adding further to the hazy divide between spare time activities.

Overall I'd suggest it's a welcome study, but doesn't teach us too much, a passion for reading (in any format) will stand you in good stead.


The Lord of Tears by James Lovegrove

The Lord of Tears by James Lovegrove is the sequel to The Lord of Void which  I reviewed last year. It is book 3 of the 5 book series, The 5 Lords of Pain, in which young Tom Yamada must save the world by defeating five demons.

After a short re-cap the action begins. 18 pages of the first 40 are given over to a epic battle against a host of Shinobi Ghosts. This is one example of some tricky language. It helps describe the Tokyo setting very well,  but words like Konnichiwa, Harajuku and Yoyogi may put off a few struggling and reluctant readers the book is ostensibly aimed at.

Lovegrove obviously knows his stuff, there is a nice reference to Death Note manga, And I think he may have also read some Alex Rider books, Tom has his own mind just like the youthful spy.

We learn a little more about the Yamada family history and meet some interesting family members. Including Mai who blackmails him to let her fight in the contest. Tom is hugely conflicted; he knows he should be preparing for the fight but the sense of normality is such a relief. In the end Tom's 'pride' forces his decision to fight. In battle the Lord of Tears is super quick, Tom can't get near him, and he must use his brain to defeat him.

It's pretty dense, long book for a Barrington Stoke publication, and lots of puzzles are going to need solving in the final two stories. I'm looking forward to seeing how it pans out.


Barrington Stoke Books

I have been reviewing Barrington Stoke books for some time now. It is very rewarding and I don't plan to stop doing the reviews, but I am going to change my approach a little.

Barrington Stoke have been sending me pre-release copies for review. I am going to focus on these, and dip into the back catalogue occasionally. So to get me started I have:
I'm really looking forward to checking these books out - hot off the press!