Earlier this year I was delighted to be contacted by St John and St Vigor School in Chilcompton in Somerset and asked if I would be their Patron of Reading. Of course I immediately said “Yes!” as one of the best things about my job is that I get to go into schools to encourage children to read and write. The Patron of Reading scheme ensures that an author will not visit the school just once, but will form a special friendship with the teachers and pupils, keeping in regular contact and helping the children with all areas of their literacy, from one-to-one reading to judging writing competitions to getting involved in class projects. I loved the idea of getting to know a school in this way, especially one that is close to where I live, as this means I will be able to visit once a term and keep in touch easily.

My first visit was during World Book Week. (That is why I look so tired in the photo, as I had lots of school visits that week!) I met the whole school, including the Reception and Year 1 classes, and talked to them about my books, told then about how old I was when I started writing, what inspired me and where I get my ideas from. I was asked some excellent questions that the children had thought up in advance including, “Which book best represents you?” and “How do you get your ideas on to the page?” both of which were very tricky questions to answer…

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I agreed with the staff that I would visit again in June and run writing workshops with the children. We also discussed how I might Skype them to discuss class projects or so that the children could show me work they had done.

The role of Patron of Reading was thought up by a head teacher in Wales who was very impressed by the impact that an author visit had had on his pupils. He saw that the children were inspired by meeting ‘a real author’ and that they saw that reading and writing could lead to exciting opportunities later in life and were not simply things they had to learn at school.

As it says on the Patron of Reading website:

“A few years ago, Tim Redgrave, the current headteacher at Ysgol Esgob Morgan in St Asaph, Denbighshire, took his Year Six class to St Asaph Library to hear Helena Pielichaty give a talk as part of Denbighshire Libraries Book Week. Tim never forgot the impact that the visit had on his pupils, and sometime later he emailed Helena about an idea he’d had for promoting and nurturing a love of reading. He asked her if she would be the first Patron of Reading and she jumped at the opportunity. The idea was extremely successful, and was quickly adopted by other schools around the United Kingdom.”

If you would like to find out more about The Patron of Reading scheme, take a look at the website here: http://www.patronofreading.co.uk or follow the scheme on Twitter at @patronofreading

I will be posting more news from St John and St Vigor after my next visit next term.

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