Patrick is Reader-in-Residence for the Extended Schools Project, Liverpool.
As an end of year celebration to recognise all of the excellent reading that has gone on so far, I spent Monday and Tuesday of this week with Frank Cottrell Boyce going into each of the four schools for a special ‘Readers Event’.
Each school had half a day in which Frank came to visit and spent a couple of hours with the children. He read extracts from his books as well as chatting with the children about his own favourite stories, where ideas come from and what ingredients are needed to make a good story. This led to ‘suspense’ being demonstrated by a home made explosive consisting of Alka-Selzer, water and an old fashioned camera film capsule. As it sat, dormant on the table, we were all aware that something was in the offing but couldn’t be wholly sure as to what. The resultant ‘explosion’, interrupting Frank mid sentence, was a child’s dream and a teacher’s health and safety nightmare. It was one of the many wonderful things that Frank brought to each session which had children journeying with him hundreds of metres underground, high-jacking sports cars and trying to kill death.
The two day tour was an excellent success with all of the children who took part captivated throughout. As we left each school a scrum formed in the library as children rushed to get their hands on Cosmic and Desirable so they could carry on reading from where Frank left off. Many of them couldn’t believe someone ‘famous’ had been to their school, had been so funny and had actually spoken to them.
It’s also raised my street-cred to astronomical levels ‘Do you know Frank then?!’ being exclaimed disbelievingly in every school. When I replied that Frank had actually driven me here, having been asked if I was Frank’s chauffeur by a lad in one group, my status as more than just a reader was confirmed.
Given that at the beginning of the year lots of these children had never read a book by themselves or even considered reading to be a pastime at all relevant or worthwhile, it was a joy to see their faces now hooked on Frank’s every word as he read to them. The enthusiastic questions that followed each time confirmed that Get Into Reading has definitely made a positive impression this year and will continue to for a long time yet.