On Saturday 21st of February, authors, teachers, poets, school librarians, illustrators, and various other fabulous people, attended the Patron of Reading conference at The Art Worker’s Guild in London.
The Patron of Reading scheme came about through Tim Redgrave, Headteacher at Ysgol Esgob Morgan, St Asaph, Denbighshire. Passionate about encouraging children to read for pleasure, Tim took his Year 6 class to see children’s author Helena Pielichaty give a talk as part of Denbighshire Libraries Book Week. Due to the impact the visit had on the children, Helena soon became the first Patron, responsible for promoting and nurturing a love of reading, and the idea was soon adopted by many more schools in the UK.
About Patron of Reading
So what is a Patron of Reading? According to their website, a Patron of Reading is:
A school’s special, designated children’s author with whom the school forms a personal attachment. The author might be a writer of fiction, a writer of non-fiction, a poet, a storyteller, a graphic novelist or an illustrator. They will work with the school for a period of approximately three years to raise the profile of reading for pleasure with pupils, parents and staff.
The scheme is incredibly flexible, in order to suit both the school and their Patron, but the Patron generally visits the school regularly, interacts with pupils and parents, both in person and online, and keeps them up to date with news or ideas regarding books, reading and libraries.
The school should try to book their Patron for a visit as often as possible, as well as promote the scheme in school newsletters and online, and read their Patron’s work and send them feedback. The school could also put up a display about the author, or have a special area in the library displaying the author’s work.
It is important to stress that there is no ‘correct way’ to be a Patron of Reading or to be a school involved with the initiative. All schools and all writers are completely different. If your objective is to get as many children as possible reading for pleasure as often as possible, then you’re doing it right!
This year, the conference was held in the beautiful Art Worker’s Guild, London. I attended with children’s fantasy author Julia Suzuki, and school librarian Helen Emery, intent on meeting new people and picking up some tips. Hosted by authors Helena Pielichaty and Denyse Kirkby, teacher Jon Biddle, head teacher Tim Redgrave, and school librarian Julia Lester, the programme was packed with excellent speakers and informative talks. We heard from several authors, including Gillian Cross, who is a Patron of two schools, Alan McDonald, and poet Joshua Seigal. School librarians also gave presentations, which gave us a fascinating insight into how having a Patron of Reading has impacted on their schools. Hearing about the process from both sides was incredibly useful and informative.
From Patrons who have developed a positive relationship with their school and been in the role for a long time, to new Patrons who are still learning the ropes. Julia Green, Jo Cotterill and Julia Suzuki gave short talks on their experiences so far, the positive and negative aspects of the scheme, and what they hope to do in the future.
After lunch, we engaged in group sessions, discussing the scheme and swapping ideas. This was brilliant, as it gave me the opportunity to meet new people, and hear some fascinating stories. Then we had a panel session, chaired by Prue Goodwin. Ian Coles of the Big Green Bookshop, Miranda McKearney from Empathy Lab, Jane Davis of Reader Org, and Sue Jones from the Reading Agency gave a great insight into how reading organisations can enhance the Patron of Reading experience for both Patrons and schools.
In all, I found the day interesting, informative, and fascinating. The mix of people was fantastic – rarely do you see people from so many different professions coming together over a shared passion and goal. I met some wonderful people, and am so pleased to have been able to attend. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who shared their story with us; it was a pleasure to listen to and meet you.
The aim of getting people, particularly children, interested in reading for pleasure, is certainly one I can get on board with, and I would encourage all book lovers to get involved. If you can’t join in officially, please do consider promoting and supporting the scheme in any way you can – through blogging, social media, donations of books, or simply through spreading the word. If you love books, and you’re passionate about reading, you really should get involved with this brilliant scheme.
Oh, and to those who caught me reading a book during the break, well, what can I say? I love reading. So I’m getting involved.
For more information on becoming a Patron of Reading, or welcoming one into your school, visit their website.
Pictures and information taken from the Patron of Reading website.