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.

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!


Some more equal …

The Outreach Team had an interesting day recently looking at the new Curriculum for Excellence outcomes and experiences for Literacy and English and Health and Well Being.

One of the outcomes under the Responsible Citizens heading started a lively debate which raised the whole issue of inclusion and equality:

I can evaluate environmental, scientific and technological issues.

We discussed case studies of students with English as an additional language (including those who use British Sign Language) and wondered if such an evaluation carried out in English would be fair to them. Surely if it is their knowledge and understanding of, say Biology, that is being assessed, then a full answer in their native tongue would be a truer representation than one done in a second language.

If this does not happen, pupils who use English as an additional language are not fully included in Curriculum for Excellence until they are proficient in written English. We decided that their abilities in their own language must be acknowledged; just as learners with dyslexia are entitled to have poor spelling overlooked if the content is understood.

This of course raises enormous issues about availability of translators, apart from the more deep seated issue about a right to be included.

Thanks to Janet Storey for the fascinating lead on this discussion.