The last month has been hectic for so many reasons. Through March I was still doing school visits as part of the World Book Day celebrations which have started to extend into the month.
Through snow and rain, I’ve been to 11 schools during March and April, to meet with children to work with them on storytelling and creative writing. It’s always a joy to meet children who have read my books, and my website and have interesting questions to ask.
All school events are different – in some the classes are small and in some I talk to a whole year group or key stage. This year I had the opportunity to talk to children about both my picture books and stories from my chapter books.
I visited West Earlham Junior too, where I’m the patron of reading and we wrote poems and riddles in each class and the children enjoyed their time making what would be on their imaginary’s teacher’s table.
Alongside the school events, I was also at the Bexley Half-term festivals to tell stories at the Bexley libraries, which was super fun because I met a lot of parents and their young children who had come to listen to Farmer Falgu stories.
The summer term is here now and I’ll be visiting more schools. I’ll be at more schools across England and Wales in May and June. I’ll also be doing public events in the summer. You can find out more about my events here.
But here’s the conundrum of an author and a writer who writes stories for children. I love meeting my readers and I go into schools and libraries just to do that. So when do I write my next stories? Every week I set aside time to write, whether it’s the weekend or early mornings before I head out – so that I’ll be writing new stories all the time. Find out more about my new books here.
Summer break just started in the UK and I’ve been thinking about my own summer vacation when I was a kid. Our summer vacations were perhaps not that big a deal because we lived in joint families. Dads went to work as usual and Mum and grandparents looked after us. I’m sure we drove our mums mad whatever we did.
We didn’t have the pressure of planning a holiday. Those days people rarely took time off and went away somewhere. If they did, it would be to visit family in another part of the country. There was no hint of camping or theme parks or seaside holidays.
My typical summer holiday before I was turned ten would have consisted of – holiday homework, Hindi class, play Trade (or what the rest of the world calls Monopoly), play Indian board games – hand-drawn Ludo, traditional snake and ladder, Carrom and other traditional games. Everyone participated – uncle, aunts, visiting relatives, friends.
Then a mandatory nap in the afternoon followed by a snack. We used to hover around the kitchen bothering our grandma for something special. I picked raw mangoes from our tree and ate it in the garden so I won’t be spotted.
We had chores to do too. Garden the plants, sweep the front yard, sort out your old school books and holiday homework. If we had run out of home work, she would ask me to copy out the newspaper or the dictionary – to learn new words, to get a better handwriting or generally keep busy so you won’t bother the grownups.
When the evening sun starts to set, it would have been cooler to get out. Every week (I think Tuesday or Wednesday) Mum took me on the bus to a lending library where she spent her personal savings on getting me books to read. I brought back bound copies of comics and lots of different books.
What time I didn’t spend time outside in the garden or running from one friend’s house to another, I spent reading. Especially from noon to four pm there was absolutely nothing to do except read as the summer sun scorched outside.
Later when I was older, I put together a team of friends and we create a newsletter. I wrote more in my early and late teens. But as a 9 year old, I read a lot. That was what summers were for.
I wish we had libraries and summer reading challenges. I wish we had the ability to borrow 16 books at a time that we could return and get more. We didn’t. But the reading I did during those years – transported me to another world – be it behind in history or forward in science fiction. Sometimes I wouldn’t understand a word or a sentence or even a cultural reference – but that didn’t stop us having fun.
How much of P G Wodehouse can a 9-year old lower middle class, south Indian girl get? How many of the jokes worked and how many didn’t? Who cares? I read P G Wodehouse, enjoyed it immensely and chuckled away in the corner of the room.
Summer holidays to me are full of
In reading nooks.
And card games.
Chill and relax.
Summer holidays to me are full of
and lending libraries.
And drying papadums.
And more housework.
What was your summer holiday like? How does it compare to today? What do your kids enjoy?
Originally published on http://www.patronofreading.co.uk/
Don’t worry! This guide will not be serious. This guide is neither full of practical tips nor some amazing ideas. It’s just another writer, avoiding the work-in-progress, hoping to rescue thousands of children from forced learning of subjunctive clauses and modal verbs.
Patron of Reading is a bonkers idea from the three musketeers – Tim Redgrave, Jon Biddle and Helena Pielichaty. And more crazy people like authors, illustrators, school teachers, head-teachers and librarians joined up and made this bonkers idea more brilliant. Who would have thought reading for pleasure was a thing? DoE haven’t heard of it, it seems! But we don’t worry much about them when we have wonderful characters and amazing facts in so many books.
To me, being a Patron of Reading is an adventure. By adventure I mean, I have no idea what I’ve got myself into and I figure out as I go, guided by the children and the teachers who have invited me in.
So how does this adventure start? Like all adventures, it starts with a tall man with a big heart and almost no hair. He checks you out with his twitter thermometer and measures your ability to read for pleasure. You write children’s books? Then don’t worry – most probably you’re already afflicted with this condition.
Then you get listed on the Patron of Reading website. Think Match.com except for matching hibernating authors with super-humans like librarians and teachers. Like in any dating profile, just reveal enough of your reading for pleasure tendencies and the general neighbourhood where this affliction affects you – and I mean more than your own room – like a city where people live and schools are run. (At least for now; if you don’t vote, who knows, all parents might have to home-school compulsorily).
Then the tall man with a big heart tweets out your patron profile to a legion of followers who re-tweet it as if these are cute cat pictures until an eager school spots you and goes Aha! We’ve would like that one please – yes that author with the yellow shirt, long hair, standing next to a stack of books and a pile of laundry. Is that you? Then you’ve been matched.
Once you’re matched, the above-mentioned tall man will approach you with details of your suitor. Where is the school? Who will be in touch with you? Who is this teacher who on top of everything they do, has agreed to be the Patron of Reading coordinator.
Like in any self-respecting matching situation, you get to talk (and by talk I mean, by email or phone or Skype or telepathy, whatever suits) with the potential school you will be patronising.
Here is the thing – this is where you reveal your reading habits – poetry? Ghost stories? Adventures set in abandoned islands? Don’t be shy. You’d be surprised when you listen to their choices.
This is where you find out what does your potential suitor want? What kind of school is it? What motivates the children? Why did they choose you? What could you bring to the table (other than a chair of course)?
You have questions? You are too shy to ask your potential suitor? Shoot it across to the matchmaker. He has weathered every what, why and when.
Well – what do you think? Have you agreed the terms and conditions of patronising? Do you have a date setup? Ooh! That’s exciting, isn’t it?
Hold fire! Don’t relax yet. Plan the first visit as you would plan any school visit – except you’re not going to be running creative writing workshops. You’re going to find ways to promote reading for pleasure. The keyword as you might have noticed is PLEASURE!
Like in any first date, take it slow. Don’t overwhelm the school with your enthusiasm. I’ve been there! Both in life and in schools. Figure out what they need from you and in what levels of enthusiasm. You might have time between two book projects and want to run a competition for the children. (Or you just want to procrastinate). Teachers as you might have guessed from teachtwitter, are an overworked bunch. They might not have time to jump into every rabbit-hole the patron wants to. So KEEP CALM and READ FOR PLEASURE.
Then agree frequency of visits. Ask them how they would like to stay in touch when you’ve returned to your cave after inspiring them with the love of reading. Maybe they would want to, maybe they won’t. Maybe the things you initiated on the first visit doesn’t fully pan out. Don’t fret. You get to go back, build relationships and try new things.
That’s it – there is no secret handshake (well, I’m not telling you, if there’s one), there is no heavy manual in all European languages (Brexit means Brexit, didn’t you know?)
And there are no set rules about how you patronise reading. Standing up, sitting down, upside down, reading poetry, non-fiction, stories, picture books, newspapers and cereal boxes – it’s all up for grabs.
Willing to take the plunge? Reach out to the tall man with a big heart (also called @jonnybid) and leave the rest to the universe.
Chitra Soundar is a Patron of Reading at West Earlham Junior School in Norwich, where she brings stories from different countries into the classrooms. She gets on their radio show, teaches them voice modulation and tells them stories from brilliant books. And when she’s not patronising, this is what she’s up to. Find out more here. Have questions, shoot her a tweet at @csoundar.
Today is World Poetry Day and I’ve been itching all day to come back home and read poetry – Swirl words in my mouth, say it aloud, marvel at the meaning and feel the beat in my blood. What should I read and what am I in the mood for? I could go back to one of my favourite poems – so simple you can memorise in a few minutes.
Then I decided I should check out contemporary Indian poets who are writing amazing poetry in both their own language and in English – people who have had similar experiences to mine, poems that have arisen from the crowded streets of an Indian city.
Here is a little taste of the poems I’ve been discovering. So delicious, so full of meaning, like a layered cake full of your favourite flavours and some that are full of bitter truths like a little piece of ginger inside a plum cake.
Here read this by Anamika, translated into English.
Throw a giant pumpkin, a jar of mango pickles and a storyteller together into a bookshop, sprinkle some cake, mix some friends and family, garnish with praise from the publisher and editor and what you get is one amazing book launch and a chuffed author who is busy writing more stories.
Maybe you missed the noisy chatter on Twitter or my invite in the newsletter or perhaps you had relocated to Mars to escape the pollution on Earth -but if you have not heard, I celebrated the launch of two new books last Saturday (8th Oct 2016) at Pickled Pepper Books, London with storytelling, orange and yellow mini cupcakes and a room full of people who had come from far to celebrate with me.
I’ve gone to many book launches in the past few years and I was worried that I wouldn’t know what to do when it was my turn. I was worried there won’t be any photos. I was worried that I’ll forget my words during the storytelling. I was worried. It was like your baby being sent to nursery or the big school for the first day. Shiny and new into the hands of others. Would they love the stories as much as I do?
I watched the door as people trickled in. I watched as people on the street walked past and it wasn’t a familiar face. As friends started coming in, I slowly relaxed. As the time came to tell the stories, my story genie took over. She knew the stories, she loved them, she grew up with them. And I hope those who were there liked the stories.
So the books have left the docks and floated away into the hands of readers. A story lives again when it is told and it grows and changes and lives over and over again when retold many times. And I hope these stories live those many lives through the readers and the listeners they read to.