What’s your favourite literary TV adaptation?


The evenings are closing in, the temperature is dropping, the time seems right to make a hot brew and curl up with a book… or perhaps, the remote?

Continue reading “What’s your favourite literary TV adaptation?”

What’s your favourite literary TV adaptation?


The evenings are closing in, the temperature is dropping, the time seems right to make a hot brew and curl up with a book… or perhaps, the remote?

Continue reading “What’s your favourite literary TV adaptation?”

Happy World Book Day from The Reader

Happy World Book Day! We were delighted to start celebrating the day by appearing on BBC Breakfast talking about the importance of reading for pleasure. Here’s The Reader’s very own Sophie Clarke on the BBC Breakfast sofa with Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell.

BBC Breakfast 3rd Mar 2016 resize

From Robert Lyon, Communications Intern

World Book Day has arrived! Once again millions of children and adults will come together to celebrate books in all their glory. A day to recognise a host of books, authors, illustrators and the readers themselves, World Book Day is celebrated with a host of events across the country. One of the longest standing features of World Book Day is of course the £1 short stories that are available to buy in stores from today. This year you have the option of enjoying:
Kipper’s Visitor by Mark Inkpen;
Supertato: Hap-Pea Ever After by Sue Hendra and Paul Linnet;
Daisy and the Trouble With Jack by Kes Gray;
The Great Mouse Plot by Roald Dahl;
Welcome to the World of Norm by Jonathan Meres;
Star Wars: Adventures in Wild Space by Cavan Scott;
Harper and the Sea of Secrets by Cerrie Burnell;
The Boy Who Could Do What He Liked by David Baddiel;
Spot the Difference by Juno Dawson;
Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell.

Schools all over the country will be distributing their £1 World Book Day tokens that get you any one of these fantastic titles or £1 off any other book you may want to buy.

At The Reader and The Storybarn we have been running a competition that allows children from across Liverpool and the local area to send in a drawing of what they love about their favourite book with the hopes of winning the prize of a free day at The Storybarn for their class. The response has been amazing with masses of bright and creative drawings gracing the walls of The Reader office as we struggle to pick a winner. The winner is being picked out later today and the lucky child and his or her class will soon make a trip to the wonderful Storybarn! Have a look at some of the brilliant entries over on The Storybarn’s website, with the shortlist also being featured on the Liverpool ECHO site.

Happy World Book Day from The Storybarn!

A major theme of every World Book Day, to children’s delight, is of course the fancy dress! All over the country on World Book Day children will be dressing up as their favourite book characters. The Storybarn gives children the chance to step into an interactive storytelling environment – including getting the chance to delve into the story-inspired dressing-up box –  and this will continue on World Book Day! Tickets are available for a day of fun and imagination while encouraging reading on World Book Day 2016.

Featured Poem: Green by DH Lawrence

Professor Brian Cox, British particle physicist, once D:ream band member (do you remember this 1997 Labour Party campaign theme? he played the keyboard) and now superstar TV presenter, has been keeping me (and millions of others) enthralled each Sunday evening on BBC Two with the ‘Wonders of Life’.  It’s visually beautiful, it’s factually interesting and it’s thought-provoking. (Last night saw the last episode but you can catch them all on the BBC’s fantastic iPlayer.)

He’s rather obsessed with carbon is Prof Cox. Well, as a physicist you’re likely to be: physically, every living thing is made of the same basic stuff (not the technical language, I’m sure). That stuff? Carbon. Now I know we’re more than carbon but basically, physically, everything that lives – trees, amoebas, meerkats, horses, you – we’re all made of the same basic carbon atoms. And there’s only so much of that stuff in the universe. Like energy. There’s a fixed amount of energy in the world, it cannot be destroyed or created, only re-created. Amazing really.

When talking to colleagues about the programme last week, Casi mentioned a letter DH Lawrence wrote to Edward Garnett, which mentions carbon. Later on that day she emailed me an extract from it:

You mustn’t look in my novel for the old stable ego – of the character. There is another ego, according to whose action the individual is unrecognisable, and passes through, as it were, allotropic states which it needs a deeper sense than any we’ve been used to exercise, to discover states of the same radically unchanged element. (Like as diamond and coal are the same pure single element of carbon. The ordinary novel would trace the history of the diamond – but I say, ‘Diamond, what! This is carbon.’ And my diamond might be coal or soot, and my theme is carbon.)

And so is Cox’s. What they’re both getting at – in different ways – is that there are basic building blocks that run so very, very deep throughout the universe that are infinitesimally small, beyond the ‘normal’ scope. What sets humans apart from their other carbon counterparts though is the amazingly complex thought patterns and acts of creative intelligence, which, for example, lead to great works of literature. I try to understand the world I live in through literature, I also try to understand it through physics (I find it easier to get delve into literary thinking than quantum mechanical thinking but there we go…).

Thanks to Cox, Lawrence and Casi for bringing it together for me. In homage to the ‘Wonders of Life’, here’s a poem from DH Lawrence (and a photograph from a summer’s walk in Devon):



by DH Lawrence

The dawn was apple-green,

The sky was green wine held up in the sun,

The moon was a golden petal between.

She opened her eyes, and green

They shone, clear like flowers undone

For the first time, now for the first time seen.

Patron of Reading Reads A Little, Aloud for Children

A Little, Aloud for Children has been read in an amazing number of places since its publication last year – in libraries, on reading relays and in many of our Get Into Reading groups, including our Hope Readers groups at Liverpool Hope University with the primary school teachers of the future. Now, the magic of the stories and poems within the book are being shared with enthusiastic young readers in North Wales courtesy of children’s author Helena Pielchaty.

Helena is Patron of Reading at Ysgol Esgob Morgan in St Asaph, Denbighshire – a role that shares many of the aims of The Reader Organisation, primarily to get children enthused about reading and sharing reading for pleasure.  Helena was featured reading at the school on BBC Wales Today last week and guess which book got a wonderful close-up on camera while it was being read aloud? That’s right, none other than A Little, Aloud for Children.

We’d like to thank Helena for sharing A Little, Aloud for Children with the pupils at Ysgol Esgob Morgan and are delighted to hear that The Snooks went down a treat! Helena has also written a guest post all about her role as Patron of Reading for our A Little, Aloud blog – head over to read about her experiences, and to see A Little, Aloud for Children’s starring television role!

Worlds of Wonder: An Olympic Evening with Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce

From Charlotte Weber, Liverpool Hope University Reader-in-Residence

Pandaemonium, The Great Gatsby, Frankenstein, Jane Austen and Dickens – these were just some of the literary greats who appeared alongside

Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce entertain the audience (c.Alan Edwards)

such contemporary icons as David Beckham, The Queen, Mr Bean and J.K. Rowling in Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce’s electric presentation in front of students and staff of Hope University yesterday evening.

The event, which was held in the University Chapel and hosted by The Reader Organisation and the Faculty of Education as part of the Hope Readers partnership project, involved the pair who were part of the creative team behind the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony discussing the literary influences on ‘the greatest show on earth’.

The Hope Readers project aims to inspire a future generation of primary school teachers with a deep and meaningful love of books and reading, which they will be able to pass-on to the children and young people they will go on to teach. The event yesterday was opened by Director of The Reader Organisation, Dr Jane Davis, who thanked the teachers and individuals who had inspired Danny and Frank when they were at school and who helped them to where they are now.

When asked about why he felt it was important to come and speak to the students at Hope, Danny commented,

Part of the privilege of our position is to be able to share our experience with people like the students at Liverpool Hope. Reading for pleasure is the fuel for everything and books, music and films are the creative platform to access the most amazing ideas.

Both Danny and Frank presented themselves to the audience as obsessive readers, with Danny referencing the controversial poet John Cooper Clark and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel The Great Gatsby as having had a massive influence on him.

The enthralled audience (c.Alan Edwards)

The pair were keen to showcase the books that had influenced their vision during the creation of the opening ceremony as well, and Frank read a section from Humphrey Jennings’ book that documents the Industrial Revolution, Pandaemonium. In fact the book, which Frank gave to Danny as a Christmas present one year, became such a huge inspiration on the ceremony, that the opening sequence, in which huge furnaces and chimneys rose from the ground of the Olympics stadium, was named after it. At the end of the talk, Frank passed a copy of the book that had been signed by both of them over to Jane Davis, to be used as part of the Hope Readers project.

During their conversation, Danny quoted C.S Lewis’ words, ‘We read to know that we are not alone’. Later, after he had read from Paul Farley’s hilarious poem, ‘A poem for the Queen’, which was used as inspiration for the sequence with James Bond and the Queen at Buckingham Palace and which refers to the Queen ‘waking up / in the blue silence of seven hundred rooms’, Danny said,

I would encourage the Queen to read. Because if there is anything that could tell her, when she wakes up in that massive house with seven hundred rooms, that she is not alone – it would be in a book!

Frank Cottrell Boyce, who scripted the opening ceremony and who is patron of The Reader Organisation and Professor of Reading at Hope, responded to a question from the audience about his feelings on being an inspiration to future generations by saying that it was simply a matter of ‘passing-on’ what you receive:

You can only give back what you are given, in one form or another: you feel impelled to pass-on what you love. And that is why teaching, and being an educator is a position of such massive privilege.

After the presentation had concluded, with a reading by Frank of his highly-acclaimed book The Unforgotten Coat, and several rounds of applause from the audience, both Frank and Danny headed over to the Eden building – the university’s Faculty of Education – for over an hour of meeting students and staff, photographs and book-signing.

There has been a massive buzz in the air at Hope about the event for the past two weeks, and it is even more palpable the day after. Both students and staff  agree that it has been one of the best moments at the university, and that it has inspired them and made them think differently about their role within Education. One PGCE Primary student commented:

The Danny Boyle and Frank Cottrell Boyce talk was great. I’m really inspired to actually read some of the books I know I should read, but have never got round too! I’ll be passing my enthusiasm onto my primary school staff (and pupils) to get reading. What fantastic ideas, and people, to bring to the university! 

The signed copy of Pandaemonium will be on display in the Garden Room in the Education Faculty and Frank has promised to return to campus again very soon to celebrate the success of The Unforgotten Coat in being nominated for the Guardian children’s fiction prize.

Thanks to everyone who attended and made it such a special, lively and exciting event.

Danny and Frank spent over an hour signing books for all the students who attended (c. Alan Edwards)

Secrets and Words: literacy changing lives

Secrets and Words programme imageThis week the BBC is broadcasting a week-long drama series concerning adult literacy.  Secrets and Words, which is being aired at 2.15pm on BBC One, examines some of the problems faced by the millions of adults in the UK who have difficulties with reading and writing.  Relationships, job prospects and public speaking are just a few of the subjects to be explored in this important new series.

The Secrets and Words series is also being supported by BBC Skillswise, which is providing learners with an activity to participate with following each episode.  Tutors can also find classroom resources to stimulate discussion with regards to the issues raised.

The series was developed with the help of NIACE (National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), following on from the independent Inquiry into Adult Literacy it supported last year.  Sue Southwood, Programme Manager at NIACE and series consultant on Secrets and Words, comments:

There are still far too many people in this country coping with poor reading and writing skills that affect them on a daily basis. They are seriously disadvantaged as workers, parents and citizens.

Showing the lives of five ordinary people who, for various reasons, all share the same secret, is an inventive and original approach to reach adults who feel they are in a similar situation. This is where television proves that it’s not only entertaining, but that its influence can change lives for the better.

Not only do those who who read regularly have better life prospects than non-readers, research has shown they are also less socially isolated, happier, and healthier. We read aloud in our Get Into Reading groups so everyone, no matter their ability, is able to enjoy these benefits, not to mention share the sheer pleasure of reading aloud together.

The current issue of NIACE’s Adults Learning journal features an article about The Reader Organisation’s work, ‘Big Books: Small Marvels’, which movingly details some of the “remarkable” outcomes from Get Into Reading. Click here to read the full article.  


Zadie Smith and Wile E. Coyote

Following on from Rob’s post about Zadie Smith’s essay on libraries, she mentioned how abandoning shared institutions once one no longer needed them was like:

“Wile E. Coyote laying down a rope bridge between two precipices only to blow it up once he’s reached the other side, so that no one might follow.”

Many people will remember spending time as a child sat in front of the TV watching the Looney Tunes cartoons, particularly Wile E. Coyote’s hilarious but futile attempts to lure the Road Runner into a trap so he could eat him. Some may be surprised that in an essay on libraries in which she refers to how many books were present in her home growing up, Smith uses a cartoon character rather than a literary equivalent to illustrate her point. However, the creator of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner drew inspiration from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn author Mark Twain.

In a 1989 interview with The New York Times, Chuck Jones revealed that the coyote was based on Twain’s description of the animal in his 1872 semi-autobiographical work Roughing It:

“The coyote is a long, slim, sick and sorry-looking skeleton…with a despairing expression of forsakenness and misery, a furtive and evil eye, and a long, sharp face, with slightly lifted lip and exposed teeth. He has a general slinking expression all over. The coyote is a living, breathing allegory of Want. He is always hungry. He is always poor, out of luck and friendless.”

Zadie Smith may be unaware of the link between the cartoon villain and Mark Twain’s book, but it remains yet another example of how literature can be a source of inspiration to so many people.

Our Read, Our Train, Our Brilliant Day!

To launch Our Read, we took 25 young people from Get Into Reading from Liverpool to London in a private carriage of a Virgin Train with author Frank Cottrell Boyce(!). Instead of writing it up, I have made a montage of photos, news clips and newspaper articles, and a video diary (I’m no Danny Boyle, sorry):


We were also joined by a number of media folk and there’s also some footage to see on:

And here’s some pics, (c) Liverpool Daily Post and Echo:

And here are some of ours (c) Charlotte Weber at TRO (and a few others!):

In the First Class Virgin Trains Lounge
The 'man who can' from Virgin Trains, Gary Iddon
Wirral Councillors Sheila Clarke and Don McCubbin
Our Read's First Class Carriage!
Frank and Jane at the Children's Library in Idea Store Whitechapel, London

That’s just the start of it! More to follow over the weekend and next week…