On Wednesday 7th March Reading Force launched at Colinton Primary School, Edinburgh, with special guest author, Vivian French. Vivian has written 300 children’s books, including the The Cherry Pie Princess, the Knights in Training series, and most recently Robe of Skulls.To much excitement at the school, Vivian had been awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award by the Scottish Book Trust the day before her visit to Colinton. In morning assembly Head Teacher Sonja Brown gave Vivian a special Colinton School certificate to recognise this prestigious award – and Vivian was really pleased!
As well as giving the children an inspiring and fun day with a real-life author, the launch raised awareness of Reading Force, the shared reading charity for military families, and how children and families can get involved. Reading Force encourages families to share a book, even if they are separated due to deployments, in which case families can read over Skype or Facetime, or chat about the book in emails and text messages. Sharing books in this way helps keep family members close and bonded. Vivian had uncles in the Navy and Army, and her grandfather was in the Army, and as such she is a keen supporter of RF activity as a way for families to stay connected. “I just think the whole idea is a fantastic project.”
Military children from Dalmeny Primary School, St Marks Primary School, and Longstone Primary School, were bused to Colinton School so they could enjoy the day too. All children were given a book, signed by Vivian, and military children received a Reading Force scrapbook to take home to their family to fill with thoughts, notes and drawings about a shared book.
Members of the Scottish Parliament, Councilors and representatives from the Armed Forces community attended, and these VIP guests thoroughly enjoyed Vivian’s sessions, meeting staff and pupils as well as ingesting slices of Colinton’s celebratory cake!
Vivian held one session to younger children from nursery to P3, and another session to older children in P4 to P7. She told the children how she had become a children’s writer (this was later in her life as she was told at school she was no good at writing!), and inspiringly said every single one of them is an author. She guided the hall of children to conjure up their own story, asking what could happen next, and giving pointers on what makes a good story – ideas that Reading Force founder Dr Alison Baverstock thought were good for writers of any age, including her students at Kingston University!
Vivian’s tips on what makes a good story:
- A feeling can be the starting point for a story – pick an emotion, an animal, and a problem
- Stories have a shape – they don’t go in a straight line
- Stories have a beginning, middle and end
- You’ve got to keep your story moving so it isn’t boring
- Send your characters on a journey – things can happen
- Stories need things to go wrong – they will be boring otherwise
- Stories need to end in a way that makes readers comfortable
- Pull things from your imagination - Vivian says “Imagination is like an invisible dustbin inside your head – full of interesting information.”
- Finally, Vivian’s top ten tips for aspiring authors: read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, and last but not least, read
Colinton children’s story:
The main character is a tiger named Jeffrold. He is anxious because it is Monday – his pizza night, and his animal friends – sausage dog, monkey, and unicorn – have come over to join him for pizza, but the pizza has not been delivered! Jeffrold goes to the pizza shop to find out why it has not been delivered and the dinosaur who manages the pizza parlour says the pizza has been delivered. So Jeffrold has a mystery on his hands. He wonders if the pizza delivery creature ate it or if it has been delivered to the wrong house?! He walks home, and on the way home he spots pizza crumbs. He meets other animals on his journey and asks them if they ate the pizza – the pig says “oink”, and the armadillo snuffles and shrieks no. Jeffrold suspects the octopus, but octopus’ don’t like garlic pizza so he couldn’t have eaten Jeffrold’s pizza which was a garlic pizza…
Colinton children have been challenged and invited to write expanded versions of this story and send them to Vivian to read. Vivian will pick winning stories and we will publish them on this blog. We’re excited to read more of Jeffrold’s adventures!
Louise Hill, MOD Support Teacher, said of the event:
“With a high percentage of pupils from Armed Forces Families here, we are very aware of the many challenges these families face, including interruptions and disruptions to their learning and home life. Many of our pupils may go to several schools during the course of their education. Here at Colinton Primary School we work closely with different partners, as well as families and children themselves to help with anxiety and confidence issues, and continue to support children during difficult periods of transition, including Military Deployment.
Photo credit: Suzanne Heffron
It was fantastic to see how engaged the children were in this Reading Force event and so delighted with their gifted and personally signed books. Vivian was such a wonderful speaker and took great care to speak with each child before signing their books. A very successful event with great feedback so far from school staff and our invited guests. We look forward to encouraging the children to start completing their scrapbooks and use books and stories as a way to communicate and connect with family and friends. Our mission now is to build on the current excitement in school, open up our newly refurbished library and get everyone buzzing about books!”
Annington generously supports Reading Force activity in Scotland. For more information about Reading Force go to www.readingforce.org.uk
Photograph of author Vivian French and top photograph of Jessica Johnson, Maddison Blackhurst, Nathan Lycett and Josh Smith with author Vivian French, with Reading Force scrapbooks: photo credit Neil Hanna