Reigate and Banstead writes!

Kay Hymas, Librarian, The Warwick School, Redhill  writes about a highly successful venture she set up in her area:

“When I was 10 years old, I won a story competition, which was run by my local paper. I can remember the thrill of being told I had won and my great pride in receiving not one but two Easter Eggs as a prize.

Fast forward to May 2016 and I am now working as a School Librarian (The Best Job in the World), at the Warwick School, Redhill.  A conversation with a student, who wished to enter a smallish writing competition, led me to search for something suitable but to no avail.  Coming up with nothing suitable I had a brainwave. Why not set up our own?

What comes first, the chicken or egg? The very first step was to check my Head Teacher, Ron Searle was happy for me to proceed, especially with using the Warwick School’s name in the promotion.  The idea as then put to rather wonderful local school librarians.  Katie Hill, Sue Sullivan and Helen Connor from St. Bede’s, Redhill, Reigate School and The Beacon in Banstead respectively. Did they think an inter-school competition would work? They agreed with much enthusiasm and offered to promote any competition in school. Without this support, there would have been no Reigate Writes! Local primary schools, with whom I had strong links were also keen enough to justify setting up a separate competition for children in years 5 and 6.

We now had the seeds of our ‘hyper-local’ competition.  The name and logo had to be settled without delay. I needed to assemble judges and prizes.

Jane McGowan, Editor of the Surrey Downs Magazine and theatre critic, readily agreed to act as ‘Head judge.’ She has been amazing with publicity, advice and hammering out the golden rules for judging the competition.  She was ably backed by Chris Bedford from our local Waterstones, Neil Richards from Surrey Library Service, a local Councillor – Frank Kelly, and Michael Rattigan a peripatetic supply teacher and published poet. All have been just brilliant and I own them all a huge debt.

Attention turned to prizes, as Katie Hill had said, decent prizes would incite the students to get writing! Here is where I struck lucky. I composed a large email out to local businesses asking for support with prizes.  Andy Nash (hereafter known as the magnificent Andy Nash) the General Manager of the Belfry Shopping Centre responded within 20 minutes with offers of prizes and in helping to promote the competition. This was closely followed by support from local cinemas, leisure centres, coffee shops, Sainsbury’s, signed books from authors as and the Recycling plant close to my school. I perhaps make this sound easier than it was. I have had to do a lot of chasing up both with prizes and publicity.

November 2016, Reigate and Banstead Writes is ready to launch. Entry forms and rules were distributed and School librarians went into action and we had several straplines to fire up the imagination and to grab attention.

A murder mystery in Priory Park. Or a Timeslip in Reigate Castle Grounds. Have Aliens landed on Earlswood Lakes? Is the Merstham Landfill site a Secret Volcano? A day out with friends on Banstead Common, or a voyage of discovery from Redhill Train Station. Do Merstham F.C Make it all the way to the Premiership? Are Reigate Caves a secret base for spies? Can you write a story set in your area?

January 2017. @RBWrites1, the twitter account promoting the competition went live. More than anything this got the word out and helped to cement the competition. Various authors such as Eve Ainsworth tweeted and retweeted. Jane McGowan published a piece in her Surrey Downs Magazine. My librarian colleagues worked tirelessly to promote in their own individual schools and made sure details ran in their school newsletters. Local councillors (from all parties) and the local MP Crispin Blunt, tweeted and promoted the competition and the local shopping centre put up a big display, complete with entry forms outside Waterstones.

Closing date 28th February. After verifying and counting. Reigate and Banstead Writes received 402 Entries from both primary and secondary age groups. A mammoth judging process lay ahead. Each judge shortlisted their favourites from their ‘pack’ which met the Entry criteria with the favourites being read and discussed by them all. The stories that did well were all set very clearly in our local area and had done exactly what we had asked.

Grace Moore, (pictured with her Year 5 teachers

Grace Moore won the Primary Category with her mystery story, BENEATH

Ben Herneman, a Year 8 student won the Secondary Category with his hilarious story, LORD OF THE RAILS (all southern rail users should read this)

We also had 2 x runners up in each category and several highly commended students who will be invited to the planned celebration afternoon taking place in June. I am busy organising that and on the hunt for an author to come and give out the prizes!  It has been a marathon and much more exciting, demanding and bigger than I thought. But the moral of this is:

Nothing was behind Reigate Writes, no publicity budget, no funding, no money set aside for prizes no big name supporters.  Rather, a good grassroots idea which harnessed the power of School Librarians working together to provide an exciting, creative opportunity for local children.

Pictured: Leon Patey 2nd place in Secondary and Laura Edwards, a ‘highly commended’ entry.

The winning stories can be read at:

http://www.warwick.surrey.sch.uk/2016/reigate-and-banstead-writes/

http://redhillbelfry.co.uk/news-events/news/reigate-and-banstead-writes-winners-announced/

www.readingzone.com (thanks to Caroline Horn)

 

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Programme

This year, nanowrimoin my school, we plan to take part in NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month.  There is a Young Writer’s Programme for the under-18’s.  So I have created my Virtual Classroom, added in the participating students and their teacher, and await November 1st to see how it all pans out.  Has anyone else taken part in this with their students?  How did it go for you?  Leave a comment!

Here’s the website if you want to join in too: http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

6 word story competition a great success!

6 word storyboard

I love this 6 word story competition noticeboard, and the idea behind it! Gloria Clarke from Gillotts School sent me this photo from a competition she ran in the library on Open Evening.  There were over 100 entries from parents and prospective students viewing the school!  The English teachers saw it, loved it, and got the pupils involved as well, so that over the 3 days the competition ran there were 130 entries.  The English Staff judged the winning entries, which were:

Year 7 (1st place): Beneath the ground, her father moved.

Year 9 : Without my Sensai, I am lost.

and a honourable mention to a Year 11 entrant: Burnt the haystack, found the needle!

What a fantastic way to promote the Library to parents and prospective students – and what a great competition to run.

Author Dan Freedman scores with QEGS!

Val Dewhurst, the librarian at QEGS, sent me this article:

Snip20150709_66“The senior school library recently received a wonderful gesture and gift from author Dan Freedman which included a copy of his prequel to the Jamie Johnson series, Born to Play to use as a prize for the most promising football player in Year 7, and to celebrate the end of the school year and football season. This was swiftly forwarded on to our PE Department where Mr Hindle took control and was quick to announce that Tom McCann 7NJP was the student who deserved this award.  The author Dan Freedman is eager to know of our student choice and has promised to include this news on his own website www.danfreedman.co.uk
 
Dan commented “over the last few weeks to celebrate the end of the school year we have been sending copies of Born to Play to some of the schools around the country, that I know well (QEGS being one of those schools) and have asked that they be presented to their most talented footballer in Year 7.  I’m sure it’s been a very difficult choice for them but I am very much looking forward to hearing their news.”
 
Dan Freedman who came to visit QEGS 2 years ago, has himself a strong passion for reading, writing and for football and loves nothing more than to encourage reading through sport and sport through reading… particularly football.”

Are you up for a summer reading challenge?

Kathryn Houghton, librarian at Bancroft’s School in Woodford Green, created this wonderful summer reading challenge to get her Prep pupils through the long summer holidays.  This would also work perfectly as a transition project between Year 6 and Year 7.  The challenges are innovative and fun, and she has given me permission to reproduce her booklet here so that you can be inspired as well.  The original was in a Publisher booklet, so converting to pdf has muddled up the order of the pages – so please ignore that and just enjoy the challenge!

summer reading challenge

One Million Minutes – are you taking part?

 

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Can our primary school children really read for One Million Minutes in just two weeks?

 Leading education charity Achievement for All teams up with Peters Books & Furniture to launch the One Million Minutes reading challenge in Bristol, Bath and Somerset.Leading education charity Achievement for All and Peters Books & Furniture are asking primary school children across the area to join together to read for a collective total of one million minutes in just two weeks.

It’s hoped the challenge will help promote a love of literacy and put reading right at the heart of each and every school day. With a powerful competitive element, and the opportunity to win a great prize for your school, the brains behind the One Million Minutes challenge are hoping children across the area will want to be involved.

Children can register with the help of their teacher at https://millionminutes.afaeducation.org

They are then asked to contribute the number of minutes they read for each day to the Readometer, which will keep track of running totals and show which individuals are contributing the most via the leader board.

If all that wasn’t reason enough to take part – there’s also a great prize to be won for the winning child’s school! Peters Books & Furniture are donating a brand new fully equipped reading corner complete with a range of fabulous new books worth over a thousand pounds!

 CEO of Achievement for All Professor Sonia Blandford said:

 “Just ten minutes of reading a day can make such a difference to a child, that’s really the minimum we as parents should be striving for. But we hope this challenge is going to see children doing far more than that. We hope all primary schools will sign their children up to the challenge, and celebrate literacy and a love of reading by makingOne Million Minutes part of the school day.”

Achievement for All is one of a coalition of charities leading the Read On. Get On.campaign that aims to see every child reading well by the age of 11 by 2025, and hopes the One Million Minutes challenge will encourage more children to read, and for longer, both at home and at school.

 The challenge will begin on 23rd February 2015 and finish on 9th March. 

  • New research by Read On. Get On shows the UK has the strongest link among developed nations between poor literacy and unemployment.
  • Last year a quarter of all children left primary education without reading well, that figure rises to two in four poorer children.
  • New analysis for the Read On. Get On. Campaign demonstrates how only one other country in Europe, Romaina, has more unequal reading attainment among ten-year-olds.
  • The gap between the best and the worst ten-year-old readers in England is broadly equivalent to seven years.

 

 

2014 Winner of the Stan Lee Excelsior Award announced!

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DC’s Parallel World Superhero Story Scoops First Place!

3172 Ratings Forms were returned and analysed this year and the teenagers of Great Britain have chosen their winner – Earth 2 by James Robinson and Nicola Scott (published by DC Comics)  To find out which books finished 2nd and 3rd click here and visit the website.  Earth 2 also won the JABBICA (Judge a Book By Its Cover Award) , becoming the first graphic novel to win this award AND finish in the top three.  This stunning and intricate cover was created by Ivan Reis.

Sheffield’s Silverdale School won the True Believers Award for the second year running.  This award goes to the school which returns the most rating forms.   Congratulations to them too!

 

 

 

 

 

Right Write – Hampshire SLS writing competition

Right, Write front cover

Isabelle Pearce from Hampshire SLS sent me the details of this amazing competition.  I think the schools there are very fortunate to have such a supportive SLS, when so many of us have lost ours. 

Last year in Hampshire SLS we decided to support our secondary schools with creative writing as well as the reading activities we do. We designed a short story competition to complement the new English curriculum requirement of “developing [pupils’] knowledge of and skills in writing, refining their drafting skills and developing resilience to write at length”.

The word count was 500-1000 words, and pupils chose one of three themes. Submissions were made via our Moodle VLE, so we enrolled hundreds of pupils and dozens of teachers and librarians to mark the stories. The mark scheme was out of 40 points, 10 each for Plot, Characterisation, Impact and SPAG. Judy Waite, children’s author and university lecturer, acted as the final arbiter and gave feedback to the shortlisted authors.

The top ten stories were then published in an ebook and made available to the participating schools to upload to their LMS or publish within school. The overall winner’s school will receive a writing workshop from Tarzan author Andy Briggs, and the overall winner (a year 7 pupil) £25 worth of vouchers.

Mercifully the take-up for this first run was not overwhelming, as it was tricky to organise on the VLE, but we hope that teachers will find it a useful tool in the classroom come September.