13 Jun Joining the Patron of Reading Haringey Chapter
Yesterday I attended an event at Wood Green Library for the Patron of Reading scheme. I was asked along by one of my local booksellers, Big Green Bookshop, who had organised the event as part of their Big Green Bookshop Education company. I had never heard of the Patron of Reading scheme before I met Tim from Big Green, but when he told me about it, it was immediately something I wanted to get involved in.
The scheme intends to match schools up with an author to call their own, the idea being that the school and the author commit to each other for at least year. The author acts as a Patron of Reading, visiting the school a number of times during the year, with the intention of creating a buzz about books and reading through various projects. The scheme – very pleasingly for a North Wales boy like me – originated in St. Asaph, Denbighshire, but has spread to take in schools all over the country. You can read more about it on their website.
Big Green Bookshop Education’s idea is to set up a Haringey chapter of the scheme, so that authors, librarians, and booksellers can work together to get kids to fall in love with reading. They want to get to a point where every school in the borough has their own patron, which I thought was pretty ambitious until I got to the meeting and discovered what a wealth of writing talent we have in Haringey: just a few of the people in attendance were Nicole Burnstein, Keren David and Karen McCrombie, (who turned up at the same time, frying my mind’s ability to remember which was the ‘e’ and which was the ‘a’ Keren/Karen. I ended up slurring that first vowel into a dipthongish æ. It sounded nothing like an ‘e’ or an ‘a’ and I’m 100% sure I did NOT get away with it), Sam Enthoven, Nell Phoenix, Non Pratt, and Philip Womack. Some of them were existing Patrons, the rest of us were prospects. Oh and did I mention that Michael Rosen was there as well?
Yeah, thought I’d just casually slip that in. No big deal. ONLY MICHAEL ROSEN.
The first part of the afternoon had us authors meeting in a group, which was a little bit daunting for me at first. I was very much the baby of the group in publishing terms, my only published book being just eight days old, so I felt like a bit of a fraud. But then you all get to talking, and you’re all just people with a similar interest having a chat. (Incidentally, one thing I’m noticing about this published author lark is you meet lots of amazing people whose books you haven’t read, which you then feel compelled to go out and buy because they’re nice, and interesting, and almost certainly more talented than you so ripe for the stealing of good ideas. Yesterday has added a hefty wad of books on to my TBR pile, I can tell you.)
After we met, we were split up into pairs to be interviewed by Year Six students from North Harringay Primary School. I was matched with Keren, which was great for two reasons: 1, it cured my brain’s æ problem, and 2, she’s more experienced than I am so I got to learn a little too. The children were great, asking us about the books we like and what interests us as writers. We asked them about what they liked, and I ended up recommending Zoë Marriott‘s The Name of the Blade books to one manga-loving girl. Which I reckon is exactly the kind of thing a Patron of Reading should be doing.
We then moved on to an afternoon of speeches. After Tim and Ian from Big Green introduced the project, Michael Rosen gave an inspiring speech about the power we – authors, educators, booksellers and librarians – have to do something amazing with the Haringey chapter. Then Sam Enthoven told us all about his experience as Patron at Alexandra Park School; Gill Ward from Fortismere School spoke about their experience with having Sita Brahmachari as their Patron; and finally Sean Edwards – the Principal Librarian Children and Youth for Haringey – gave us a run down of the initiatives libraries in the borough have employed to get children reading. And also gave us the excellent news that none of the borough’s libraries would be closing.
All of us authors had to get up and introduce ourselves, which gave me a chance to show off The Box of Demons in all it’s hardback claspy glory to much cooing. (Michael Rosen gave the pop-up an amazed ‘Bloody hell!’). Then followed a mingling session, but as I had an appointment I had to dash off. As I sat on the tube being whisked away I realised how much my life has changed now that I am officially an author. It was a wrench to go from that inspiring afternoon amongst like-minded, lovely people back to real-life. Luckily, Non Pratt had the foresight to take down all the authors’ email addresses, so the blow was softened this morning with a clutch of emails putting us all in touch with each other. I’m looking forward to us sharing Patron of Reading ideas, and I hope I get matched up with a school in time for the autumn term.
I’ll let you know once I am all patroned up!