Book Festival meets Glow

New Edinburgh Book Festival Event on Glow – Michelle Paver

MIchelle Paver and BookLTS is delighted to announce that the author of the fascinating and bestselling series ‘Chronicles of Ancient Darkness’ will be appearing live over Glow Meet from the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Michelle Paver will be speaking at 12:00 on Monday the 31st of August, so if you and your class would like to hear her talk about her exciting series of novels, set in the stone-age, and to hear about what inspires her to write, sign up by going to the Edinburgh International Book Festival Glow Group.

Book festival event is a reminder of children’s real life trauma

Children in Scotland announces that Bronwen Cohen, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland will chair an event at this years Edinburgh International Book Festival on Sunday 23 August.
‘As research regularly shows that stress, family trauma and the effects of poverty are taking their toll on the mental health and wellbeing of Scotland’s young people, an event at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival, chaired by Bronwen Cohen, Chief Executive of Children in Scotland, will generate a timely discussion about the value of featuring these real-life situations in works of fiction aimed at younger readers.
Children in Scotland has a long-standing commitment to researching and promoting the role of the arts and developing emotional literacy in young people, and the Book Festival event, ‘Compelling Novels, Vulnerable Children’, taking place on Sunday 23 August 2009, at 6.30pm, will examine whether the experiences of a variety of children at risk, including runaways, orphans and young carers, should be used for entertainment, and to what extent authors treat such subject matter with the sensitivity it merits.
The panel of young people’s authors – Anne Fine, Melvin Burgess and debut novelist Rachel Ward, will spark what is set to be a candid debate.
Speaking ahead of the event, Bronwen Cohen said: “The arts in all its forms plays a vital part in the development of creativity, emotional maturity, and wellbeing for young people. Works of fiction, such as those we will be discussing, can offer new perspectives, and allow young readers to deal with difficult situations in their own lives. But, authors must take responsibility, treating the subject matter with sensitivity, not sensationalism.”’

Calling all wannabe paperback writers

Calling all wannabe paperback writers – win the chance to publish your pupils’ work for free – and sell the books to raise school funds, in a new TESS/Scholastic competition

Every child can be an author, published in your school’s own book – that’s how Scholastic promotes its We are Writers! scheme on its website. Now The TESS is joining the publisher in inviting primary and secondary schools to take part in a competition in the run-up to next month’s Scottish Learning Festival.

Visual Literacy, Learning, Graphic Novels and Manga


Last night Jean Knox, Joan MacRae and I heard an interesting talk at the Book Festival with Dr Mel Gibson (no, not that one) talking about using Graphic Novels and Manga when teaching children and young people literacy skills.

She gave us a whirlwind tour of such books, few of which I had heard of.

I am aware of Colin McNaughton and Colin and Jaqui Hawkins as well as the comics many of us in the audience had known as children: Jackie (the immortal article ‘ How to Knit your own Pyjamas’ passed me by thank heavens), Bunty, The Eagle, Beano and Dandy. (My parents bought me ‘Look and Learn‘!) She stressed the point that modern graphic novels were available for all ages, interests and abilities and were to be viewed positively as serious sources of study. Comics are a ‘medium not a genre’.

I am a big fan of anything by Raymond Briggs and Mel offered fascinating insights into ‘The Snowman’, ‘When the Wind Blows’ and ‘Ethel and Earnest’. She not only illustrated the sheer breadth of subject matter and age range but also dissected their sophisticated and specific ‘grammar’. I had never noticed, for example, the variation in size of ‘panels’ which indicate the differences between the small events of individual lives and those on the world stage, such as the detonation of the nuclear bomb in ‘When the Wind Blows’. windThis is ‘campaigning’ and challenging literature at its very best and worthy of close attention. Other examples of political commentary are works by Joe Sacco,- his ‘Palestine’ is essential reading, as is’Maus’. One I did not know also comments powerfully on universal concerns: ’In the Shadow of the (Twin) Towers’

Mel forcefully illustrated the power of graphic novels as tools for serious study again and again; suggesting for example, that students compare and contrast the 3 graphic versions of ‘Macbeth’. After all, while the story remains the same interpretations differ – as they do on stage.

Many of these books not not just make the full text accessible they make it relevant. Mel quoted some youngsters who on discovering the ‘Rime of the Ancient Mariner’ rimewho wondered what the author ‘was on’ (laudanum/opium, dear). This work illustrates that these books can also be multi-layered :someone ’sits on a stone’ and, lo, there is Mick Jagger. Maybe the youngsters don’t get it but their parents will (or perhaps thier grandparents)! It is such ‘manic, powerful, active’ work that appeals to the emotions and often replicates the style of the computer games many young people play thus engaging them instantly. Examples are: ‘GON’, COWA’, ‘Skim’ and ‘Alice in Sunderland’.

Mel focused, on the whole, on those books that touch on major themes and complex narratives but she also referred to books that are just fun and so likely to engage even the most reluctant reader. She did make the point that at present there are few works for primary children and that those with text do not make concessions to less experienced older readers. However, publishers are ever more aware of the gap in the market and are beginning to produce books in lower case and with a more straightforward structure that doesn’t ‘play with the grammar of the page’ so much.

Mel ended her talk lauding the role of the school librarian and giving brief suggestions for teaching. These are being consolidated on her own website and she has also made substantial contributions to LTS. Check it out.

Finally, it was great to hear Bill Boyd’s question about differences between Scottish and English curricula – (she tried to be tactful but made it clear that she felt the curriculum south of the border was restrictive) asked virtually through Glow!