Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again

Our Read author Frank Cottrell Boyce’s new book is out today – the first in his new series of books about the adventures of the flying car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again tells the story of a family who get more than they bargained for after they soup up their VW camper van with an old racing car engine, and before long are zooming around the world as Chitty comes to life again and is restored to her former glory. So if you’re a fan of Frank’s warmth, wit and deft storytelling ability, then you’re sure to enjoy his latest outing as he steers this much-loved children’s classic on an exciting new course.

The Unforgotten Coat Makes a Splash in America

Thanks to this year’s Our Read book giveaway, tens of thousands of people in the UK and beyond have read and enjoyed Frank Cottrell Boyce’s The Unforgotten Coat, and now it seems that our stateside cousins are also relishing the adventures of Chingis and Nergui.

Frank’s story about the two Mongolian brothers who arrive in Bootle and enlist a local schoolgirl as their ‘good guide’ to the area has been warmly reviewed by Betsy Bird of the Fuse #8 blog, who suggests that it might be his best novel and describes the book as:

the kind of book you get when an author gets an original idea and works it into something memorable. This is one story kids will read and then find difficult to forget.

Bird also praises the distinctive layout of the book, with its notebook-style page design and inventive use of Polaroid photographs, combined with Frank’s deft storytelling abilities:

Few authors have a way of turning you over on your head in the course of reading a children’s title. Boyce can. Can and does. This is, without a doubt, one of the best little books I’ve ever read. A brilliant melding of text and image, it’s a wonderful example of what can happen when an author goes for something entirely new.

The story has also caught the eye of Meghan Cox Gurdon in the Wall Street Journal, who praised the book’s positive approach to foreign cultures and described it as:

a funny and affecting book for children ages 10 to 14

So if you haven’t read The Unforgotten Coat yet then we can only encourage you to do so, whatever age you are!

Our Read Summer Workshops

Yesterday saw the last of this year’s Our Read summer workshops, which were held at Toxteth Library and the nearby John Archer Hall with the help of The Haven Project, who support the emotional wellbeing of young asylum seekers and refugees. The workshops were open to everyone and were attended by children from the ages of six to sixteen, who were able to enjoy the great range of events and activities staged over the three weeks.

The sessions were loosely based on The Unforgotten Coat, Frank Cottrell Boyce‘s book about a Bootle schoolgirl who befriends two Mongolian brothers, which he kindly wrote for this year’s Our Read campaign. Activities included sampling food from around the world, making cakes and going on a treasure hunt around Toxteth Library, as well as a visit from Frank himself to read from the book and help with some creative writing exercises. The children were excited to meet Frank and especially thrilled when he signed a copy of the book for each child to take home.

We were also joined at one session by Carl Hunter and Clare Heney, whose photographs illustrate The Unforgotten Coat and who led the children in a photography workshop, during which they were encouraged to explore their environment using Polaroid and digital cameras. Other activities included a journey to Princes Park which concluded with a keenly-contested game of football, and things were topped off yesterday by a party at the John Archer Hall involving lots of exciting fun and games.

We hope everyone enjoyed the workshops, we certainly had a lot of fun putting them on and it was a great pleasure to meet so many lovely people. We’ll be back next year so watch this space to find out what we’ve got planned!

Art Read? Our Read Heads to the TATE for World Perspectives

Saturday afternoon was particularly busy for TATE Liverpool this week, as visitors gathered for World Perspectives, an event to celebrate Liverpool’s rich and vibrant multiculturalism. Kicking off with a fantastic performance by DADA Live, which explored the themes of the Sense of Perspective exhibition, the afternoon also featured music from the Liverpool Chinese Youth Orchestra and a culinary tour around the Albert Dock (with lots of delicious free food!).

Our Read was also there, distributing copies of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s, The Unforgotten Coat. Joined by some new Our Readers and some familiar faces, we enjoyed a short reading from the book, followed by Our Read themed activities. Design your own Unforgotten Coat went down a little too well with some, with fantastical creations bordering on Joseph’s Technicolour Dreamcoat produced, whilst tackling the most difficult wordsearches ever created became a matter of pride for others!

Take a look at some of the pictures from the day.

HEROES books aim to rescue reading for boys

The suggestion has long been made that there is a distinct gender divide when it comes to reading, most significantly between boys and girls of school age – the crucial time when the foundations for lifelong reading habits are made. As well as attaining higher levels of reading in an academic sense, it is thought that girls are more likely to regularly read for pleasure outside of the classroom with nearly half of girls reading for at least thirty minutes a day compared to less than a third of boys (Source: Girls and Boys – The Gender Reading Gap; The Literacy Company).

Now new research has indicated that a growing number of boys are ‘reluctant readers’, rapidly losing passion for reading, being put off by the classics of English literature and finding that the longer a book is, the more unappealing it becomes. The publishers Pearson carried out a study in secondary schools across the UK which has found that on a national level, 60% of all reluctant readers are boys. Out of 500 teachers surveyed, 57% expressed concern about the high number of boys who were reluctant to read in classes.

An especially important finding in the research was pinpointing exactly where it is in reading a book that boys begin to lose interest; overall, 70% of teachers have noticed that the attention span of boys had diminished drasticallyon average by the 100th page of a book. However, nearly a quarter of teachers report that engagement with a book can be lost for boys as soon as within the first few pages – and such dramatic disengagement amongst boys is felt most accurately in the North West. It was also pointed out that longer books – over 200 pages in length – are a particular stumbling block; three in ten teachers noted that boys switched off before even starting a book of such length, whereas only 3% stated that this was the case with girls, reinforcing the notion of a gender reading gap.

Further to research amongst teachers, over 260 boys aged between 11-13 also took part in the study. One in five said they thought that reading was primarily ‘for girls’, with the same number saying they prefer to read shorter books – of fewer than 100 pages. Yet, there are glimmers of hope amongst the worrying figures. Despite a signifcant erosion of engagement in reading, more than four in ten boys questioned said their ideal book would be longer than 200 pages – contradicting what their teachers said – and nearly half said they preferred reading books in full rather than just reading extracts. Such findings show that the spark of interest for reading is still there for boys, encouragingly; it is just a question of kindling that spark to grow larger.

In the hope of doing so, a series of completely new and original books designed especially for boys of the age range surveyed has been launched. HEROES has been put together with the assistance of Our Read author Frank Cottrell Boyce and the books in the series have been created with the aim of switching boys back on to reading, increasing their engagement with books as well as building their confidence around reading and improving their literacy skills. In order to help combat the issue of reluctant reading, the books incorporate things that boys identified as those that would make them more interested in reading – action, adventure, crime, horror and thrilling narrative –  as well as being shorter to capture boys’ attention.

Frank hopes that by reading the HEROES books, boys will renew their interest in reading away from school and will gradually begin to read longer stories, saying that boys must be started on shorter books intially if they are to become lifelong readers: “Nobody wants to run a marathon if they can’t run.” As with all readers, the key aspect in switching on boys’ attention is pleasure – and, as Frank says, pleasure can’t be taught: it can only be shared. But the classroom is a good place to start to encourage boys – and girls – to continue their reading adventures elsewhere. “According to Unesco, the biggest single indicator of whether a child is going to thrive at school and in work is whether or not they read for pleasure. Our hope is that the stories in Heroes will be shared and enjoyed in the classroom by pupil and teacher alike because pleasure is the most powerful motivation.”

Hear more from Frank about the HEROES series (and a little bit about his reworking of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in this video, broadcast on BBC Breakfast, 17th May 2011:

More information on the study about ‘reluctant readers’ in secondary schools can be read here.

Our Read Meets Chain Read

The rain may have poured but even the weather couldn’t dampen our spirits on Light Night, as we settled down in Brew for our Chain Read of The Unforgotten Coat. Warming ourselves up with steaming cups of tea, our group of Chain Readers took turns reading the story aloud, and it was really interesting to listen to the many different ways in which readers engaged with the story. The big surprise of the night was when Frank himself turned up and read to us! Everyone was so thrilled to meet him and to have the opportunity to ask questions about the book, taking advantage of the chance to get their books signed and photograph taken.

Those who participated had a fantastic time, and many of them loved the concept of the Chain Read, so much so that they were inspired to hold their own! I’m hoping to hear about an epidemic of Chain Reading across Liverpool very soon!

Many thanks to all our Chain Readers for making the night such a success.

World Perspectives at TATE Liverpool

Saturday 28th May, 14.00 – 16.00

As part of the Sense of Perspective exhibition curated by Young TATE, enjoy an afternoon of fun activities celebrating Liverpool’s rich and vibrant multiculturalism. There’ll be plenty to enjoy at the World Perspectives event – experience music, carnival and theatre performances by young people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and sample cuisine from all over the world. Our Read will also be at the event, reading from Frank Cottrell Boyce’s, The Unforgotten Coat, and handing out hundreds of free copies!

The event is free and is a great opportunity to take a look at the Sense of Perspective exhibition, which will be at TATE Liverpool until 5th June.

Frank Cottrell Boyce wows audience at Croxteth Community Library

On Tuesday 10th May, award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce visited Croxteth Community Library to talk about and read from his new book, The Unforgotten Coat, written exclusively for Our Read. Attended by over 100 local schoolchildren from both primary and secondary schools, and a number of people working in the Communiversity building, the event was a resounding success and was thoroughly enjoyed by all. We had some great questions from the audience (many of the schoolchildren were as prepared as Paxman!), ranging from why Frank decided to become an author and what inspired him to write The Unforgotten Coat, to slightly more probing questions, such as his age!

Brian Spurgin, a volunteer at Croxteth Community Library, said,

“We know that Frank has a special gift for the written word but he also knows how to woo an audience.  He read a couple of passages from The Unforgotten Coat & a few pages from his personal edition of Cosmic.  The Q & A session was excellent – it was scheduled to last about 20 minutes but there were that many questions it went on for double the allotted time.”

Thanks to Frank for being part of such a memorable day for everyone at Croxteth Community Library.