As part of Book Week Scotland 2015, Chryston High School were excited to welcome Melvin Burgess to our school on Wednesday 25th November. The event was publicised in the library and across the school with pupils eager to find out if they had been picked to attend the event. 80 pupils were selected across S4 – S6 and due to the fact that the majority of the pupils attending the event wouldn’t be described as ‘readers’ to help prepare them for the visit I went into their English classes and showed a PowerPoint on some of Melvin’s books. It included the cover and blurb from ‘Bloodtide’, ‘Junk and ‘Doing It’, the main themes of the books and some reviews about the books. This led to an open discussion about the pupil’s first impression of the books and meant they had some understanding of Melvin’s works before the visit. Since these pupils would be categorised as reluctant readers I was pleasantly surprised when a few of the S5 boys told me they were ‘buzzing’ to come and listen to Melvin and hear more about his books.
On the day there was definitely an excited atmosphere as the pupils all made their way to the hall to listen to Melvin. A few of the pupils told me they were really nervous as had never been to an author event before so weren’t quite sure what to expect. Melvin started the talk with ‘Bloodtide’ and although it took the pupils a while to warm up (being 9.30 in the morning) they were soon enthralled with his tales of Norse gods and the story of Siegfried and Brunhilde upon which ‘Bloodtide’ was based.
The next book the pupils were introduced to was ‘Doing It’, I think this was the book the pupils were most looking forward to hearing about, indeed it is the one that has been most borrowed since. Talking to a group of teenagers about sex is always going to get a few laughs, some shocks and a lot of embarrassed faces but the pupils really enjoyed listening to how Melvin went about researching and writing the book. It really brought home to the pupils that books do not need to be boring and that they can and will have stories in them that they can relate to, understand and laugh at.
After asking some questions and getting some really interesting answers from Melvin it was time for the pupils to purchase some books and take the opportunity for Melvin to sign them. There were a lot of pupils with red covers (Doing It) walking about the school that day.
Overall I feel that the event was a huge success, I have had a number of pupils stop me in the halls and come to the library to talk about Melvin and his books. Pupils have been borrowing his books since just before the visit and are still borrowing them now, I have a waiting list for ‘Junk’ and ‘Doing It’. It has been a great experience seeing the pupils enthused about an author and about reading books when it usually isn’t really their thing. I have already been asked if Melvin can came back again and when the next big author event is. Thank you to Book Week Scotland for giving the pupils at Chryston High the opportunity to listen to Melvin talk so passionately about his books and for helping to encourage the pupils to pick up a book and read.