Prime Minister says "Reading Matters"

David Cameron reads with Divine Obijiaku: from Evening Standard Website
There is a nice article on the Evening Standard website about the Prime Minister's visit to a London school. He was checking out the Get London Reading campaign. It's a very similar model to ours here at Reading Matters; using Reading Volunteers to improve literacy.

To hammer home the point here is a quote
Reading matters for two simple reasons, he told pupils. "If we don't learn to read properly, then everything else in education is a closed book. But above and beyond that, reading is a joy and a pleasure and it is for life."


Picture This! Illustrating Children’s Books at Gallery Oldham

I have just read about the rather wonderful sounding Picture This! Illustrating Children’s Books show at Gallery Oldham on the equally wonderful blog by Lynne Chapman

It sounds great, with illustrations from children’s books family activities. It includes some big names too: Shirley Hughes, Anthony Browne, Jez Alborough and Helen Stephens. 

Lynnes' doing a big family event on Saturday 28 January and the exhibition is on to 11 March, so lots of time to make the trip!


Barrington Stoke Solos: Bighead by Vince Cross, Take Two by Jo Cotterill, Bomb by Jim Eldridge and The After School Club by Alison Davies

Over Christmas I read four relatively new books in Barrington Stoke's Solo range. I thought I'd write them up in one go here. Solos are described as 'short, whole novels that offer an easier introduction to real books'. They have a large difference between Reading Age (6.5 years) and Interest Age (11+).

Bighead by Vince Cross
Andy's in a wheelchair after an accident, his Dad has walked out and his Mum's struggling to find direction in her life. Understandably Andy has poor self-esteem, but the band he forms with is friends gives him the inspiration he needs. Bighead, the new band's name, reflects this new found confidence. The band can't fail on their path to stardom, and even Andy's Mum sorts herself out. Bighead is quite a cheesy story, but you can't help but smile.

Take Two by Jo Cotterill
I am afraid to say it, Take Two is aimed purely at a female audience, it includes a lot of pink, stars, dresses and glitter. It explains how Carla and Lily get their own back on the sneaky, arrogant Max. The girls see through him straight away, "he's too up himself", and find a great way to embarrass him. Take Two mixes some British, American and Japanese institutions: rugby, school proms and manga pictures. The blurb on the back tells you all you need to know; One prom + One hot boy + Two best friends = A lot of trouble!

Bomb by Jim Eldridge
I really like the way Bomb is presented; dramatic pictures, lots of talk of MI5 an secret reports. It makes the story of a bomb in a school come to life. Rob is the bomb disposal expert, he is only 19, but he's the best. But he is troubled because his best mate was killed by a terrorist bomb like the one he must face. He has 45 minutes to diffuse the bomb, this is about how much time it might take to read, so it feels like it is in real time, which is a neat trick. It ends with a classic decision of which coloured wire to cut, I won't spoil it for you!

The After School Club by Alison Davies
The pictures and words in The After School Club seem to be telling different stories. Without the pictures it would be  a scary horror story about a secret club. But the images are done in a jokey cartoon way, which reduces the impact of the spookiness. Sam can't resist when Lena, the coolest girl at school asks him to join the 'Hairy Bikers' gang. Inevitably things do not go as he hoped and he has a series of run-ins with the other gang members and school bullies. The big revelation is perhaps easy to spot coming, but it is still a fun read. I would have liked the pictures to been as unsettling as the text though.


Wolf by Tommy Donbavand

I met Tommy Donbavand at the Doncaster Children's Book Award last year, he was short-listed for Zombie!, another Barrington Stoke book. He did a brilliant routine involving giant crabs and toilet-roll mummy children. It was obvious mnosters play a big role in Tommy's world. So it was no surprise to see his latest is Wolf, a werewolf tale.

Wolf tells the story of a normal boy called Adam's incredible transformation one evening, and the amazing reactions of his parents. 

Adam's first concern when claws rip out of his fingers "mum's going to kill me when she saw the mess!" That turns out to be the least of his worries, as a very gruesome transform takes place. The chapter names describe the process: Claws, Fur, Tail, Snout, Eyes, Spine and Teeth! I particularly like the Fur chapter; "it did feel like I was wearing a thick dressing gown."

More remarkable than the transformation is Adam's parent clam reaction to it. They are pretty prepared for it. As Adam struggles to overcome his animal instincts and work-out why his parents are behaving so oddly, it builds to a truly shocking final couple of pages.

Brilliant, horrific stuff. I hope I catch up with Tommy again soon, he is much friendlier in real life.


Free to download: How to Choose Children’s Books

I just got a copy of the free to download: How to Choose Children’s Books by Aaron Mead.

It is really comprehensive, and just a little over-whelming!

It contains
  • Practical tips on picking great books for kids of all ages—infant through young adult.
  • Guidance on what makes books attractive and developmentally valuable for children.
  • Analysis of themes, illustrations, stories, and the use of humor in children’s books.
  • Philosophical reflections on the role of children’s books in the development of moral character.
  • A comprehensive list of online resources for finding excellent children’s literature, including book lists, sources of professional book reviews, and children’s literature blogs.
A key message for me, is that just because a book looks attractive to an adult doesn't mean it is going to be right for a young person. 

It's an eBook so full of links to further reviews and resources. I think our Reading Mentorsfamilies and other people working one-to-one with young people will find it very interesting.