Barry Hutchison

A pupil from Oban High School wrote to Barry Hutchison about her school library.

This is the letter and Barry’s reply.

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Taylor High pupils welcome Keith Gray on a balmy afternoon in April

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A select number of S3 students welcomed Keith Gray on a balmy Thursday afternoon to the library at Taylor High School. This visit had been anticipated for several months and when the day arrived the students didn’t actually know what to expect.

We had estimated approximately 20 students attending the session but 25 turned up on the day. This was a “Creative Writing Workshop” usually lasting 90 minutes but due to timing factors Keith had to condense it into a 60 minute slot. As you can see everything was going according to plan (or not!).

Keith had asked for a flip chart, paper and pens for the students. Each student had to write 3 things about themselves and then pass their paper on to the person beside them. This was carried out very sheepishly, then Keith encouraged them to build their story by asking them numerous questions and getting them to write down various words.

As the session progressed all the students became involved with what was happening and with what they were being asked to do. The time passed so quickly, eventually Keith asked some students to read parts of their story out loud and I was surprised at how willing the group were to do this. They were enthralled with the session to such an extent that some stayed behind to interview Keith for a school project.

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World Book Day at St Aidan’s

Report from Marie McGough

The children’s author, Gillian Philip, visited St Aidan’s High recently as part of the school’s World Book Day celebrations. Gillian Philip’s book, Mysteries of Ravenstorm Island: The Lost Children, was one of the shortlisted titles at the recent Scottish Children’s Book Awards. An eager audience of 60 S1 pupils gathered, in the school library, to listen to Gillian talk of her enthusiasm for books, stories and writing. The main body of the presentation focused on myths, legends, and fairytales, and how we use them to tell modern stories from Dr Who to The Hunger Games. The presentation sparked a lively question and answer session much to Gillian’s delight.

Gillian Philip 022_40

A number of the author’s books were available to purchase and Gillian signed these while chatting with pupils. The S1 pupils thoroughly enjoyed Gillian Philip’s visit and a good time was had by all!

This author visit was partly funded by The Scottish Book Trust and organized by the school librarian, Miss McGough.

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Melvin Burgess Visit

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.

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Yay YA+

Yay! YA+ Book Festival

On Friday 24th April nearly 200 pupils from local secondary school were all waiting with anticipation for the start of the first Yay! YA+ book festival – celebrating all that is brilliant about Teen Fiction in Scotland. Chryston High were lucky enough to take 10 pupils on the day and they were all looking forward to a great day meeting and listening to authors, buying books and enjoying exploring Cumbernauld Theatre.

So first off was an introduction from Kirkland Ciccone, he welcomed all the pupils then let them know what was in store for them throughout the day.

Kirkland Ciccone

Chryston High pupils were in the first group to go around Cumbernauld Theatre and meet a whole host of Scottish authors, getting to spend 10 minutes with each author listening to them talk about their books and their love for teen fiction then having the opportunity to ask questions.

First we met Linda Strachan and heard about her new book ‘Don’t Judge Me’ and her previous books, including Catalyst award winning book ‘Spider’. My usually shy pupils were brilliant at asking her lots of questions, so much so that we actually went over our time a little bit as they were so engaged.Linda Strachan

Next up for us was Alex Nye who spoke about her books ‘Chill’ and ‘Shiver’ The pupils loved her talk and have been borrowing her books since we got back to school that day.

We then met Matt Carney who really impressed the pupils with his tales of adventure, so much so that they are all trying to decide what adventures they want to go on when they leave school.

Matt Carney

Lari Don talking about her new book Mind Blind was a big hit with all the pupils, they all really enjoyed her talk and thought she was so enthusiastic about teen fiction that they couldn’t help but be too.

Lari don

Victoria Campbell kept the pupils entertained by taking about Viking fighting, which features in her book ‘Viking Gold’, and showing replicas of some of the weapons they used.

VC 20150424_111954

Last up on our tour was Roy Gill, talking about his books ‘Daemon Parallel’ and ‘Werewolf Parrallel’. The pupils loved listening to Roy talk about his inspiration for his books and had some really interesting questions to ask.

Roy Gill

After meeting all the authors the pupils had a chance to buy some books from Scotia and find a wee nook to eat some lunch before the second part of the day began.

In the auditorium, the pupils were treated to talks from Cathy MacPhail, Theresa Breslin and Barry Hutchinson. It was then time for some quick questions from the panel of authors before the bus was there to pick us up.

Cathy MacPhail 20150424_131731 20150424_140515

All the pupils had a great day and are already asking when the next one is, making the first Yay! YA+ festival a huge success.


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Mac Barnett: Why a good book is a secret door (TED Talk)

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A day at the Festival

Only the second day of term, but OLHS staff and pupils are already out and about in search of literature at the Edinburgh International Book Festival – and we saw other NLC schools too (take a bow, Kilsyth Academy). Fifty 3rd years and five staff headed east, arriving only just in the nick of time, thanks to some lousy traffic.

On the plus side, it meant we didn’t wait about for our first talk with Lari Don, discussing her latest book, Mind Blind, and encouraging the audience to discuss the positives and negatives of having superpowers. This went down well with some of the OLHS crowd who appreciated the interaction, especially when one of our own was invited to share their thoughts, while others wanted to hear more about the book itself.

Staff and pupils wandered off to explore the festival site, check out the fabulous bookshops – enter with your credit card at your own risk – partake of light refreshments, and just enjoy the sunshine. There isn’t a decent bookshop in Motherwell, and a lot of pupils were seen wandering about inside just soaking up everything on offer, and some took advantage of the Festival’s £2 tokens to purchase a wee present for themselves.

Our second talk featured contributors to a new World War I anthology, Tony Bradman, Linda Newbery and Paul Dowswell. Many pupils commented on how much they learned about the war from the discussion between the three authors, while others felt World War I was being talked about too much.

Pupils’ comments afterwards revealed an even split between those who had enjoyed Lari Don, and those who preferred the World War I talk. For some this was a fiction/non-fiction issue, some were more concerned about the presentation, and others the ideas that had been discussed. Meanwhile, the loveliest 3rd years enjoyed both, with many appreciating the differences in the speakers’ styles.

And perhaps best of all, there was a huge amount of interest in who else was speaking and when they could return, which makes all of the work worthwhile 🙂

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Guardian: Scores of authors lobby government to act on school libraries

Report in Guardian regarding the letter to Government. This report’s findings apply to England, but all advocacy is good advocacy 🙂

Text published with permission of Alan Gibbons:

The report of the Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group, entitled The Beating Heart of the School, last week concluded that “it is vital that all schools have a good library to ensure children develop essential literacy and digital literacy skills in order to fulfill their potential.”

Responding, Schools Minister David Laws said: “Reading for pleasure and study has a well-documented positive impact on children’s educational attainment across the curriculum.”

We, authors and illustrators, teachers, librarians, parents and others, are keen that this recommendation does not just become another piece of wishful thinking and call on the Department of Education to act immediately on the report’s conclusions to gather data on library provision and instruct Ofsted to include libraries in its remit. This is urgent. Schools lost 280 librarians last year. At the very least the Department should convene a working group including librarians’, authors’, head teachers’ and teachers’ representatives to draw up an action plan to realise the aim of a good library in every school.

Alan Gibbons

Campaign for the Book

Signed by  … etc

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Caldervale High School Pupils meet Children’s Laureate

I have just returned to school on a high (a literary high) having taken 10 lucky Caldervale High School pupils to a Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour event featuring the Waterstones Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow, on Wednesday 21st May. Malorie spoke inspiringly about her background, her love of reading and writing, as well as introducing trailers of her books and showing a clip from her BAFTA winning BBC programme, Pig-Heart Boy. Fourth year pupil, Zilke Bleyl was able to ask Malorie about her book characters, during the Q&A session and all of the pupils were able to chat to the author at the book signing session at the end of the event. Malorie took the time to speak to each pupil individually and pose for numerous photographs, while signing their books. It was a thrill for me to see my pupils so excited to hear and speak to such an inspiring author (does that sound corny – I don’t care!!!) We had a brilliant time, thanks to the Scottish Book Trust who organised the event.
Malorie Blackman

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The danger of a single story

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World Book Day 2014 at Taylor High School

One school community’s take on World Book Day 2014

Taylor High School staff and pupils have been very busy designing book covers for our World Book Day 2014 competition.  Various departments, individual teachers and lunchtime clubs were involved in this wonderfully fun and artistic event.  Pupils from across S1-S3 helped to brighten our already colourful corridors with their designs.

Designs for book covers either had to relate to their teacher’s subject, school or something they were studying.  It was a great way to get the whole school community involved in celebrating literature and promoting literacy.

It was clear from the outset that running this type of activity would take some thought and planning.  In order to get staff as passionate about this idea as myself, it was going to take more than an email.  By simply visiting various departments and speaking to staff, the activity began to take shape.  However, I did send one final email at the beginning of World Book Day week to finalise everything.

Some teachers undertook this activity as a group project, while others got pupils to individually create a poster to become one design.  The response from both staff and pupils was great, as various departments got involved in this event.

The Art Department involved three of their S1 classes.  Their commitment to this project was amazing and this really made both teacher and librarian proud.  The focus of their design was ‘Alice in Wonderland’.  Each class had a different interpretation of this classic book.

The Maths Department took a different approach when creating a book cover for the Murderous Maths series.  One S3 class created a display by putting posters around their class door, while another class covered their door in their own personalised paper books to celebrate this book series.

A number of our lunchtime clubs were also involved, including the S1 Around the World Club, my own S1 Book Club and the S1 Euro Club.  Books included ‘The Demon Dentist’ by David Walliams and ‘Toro, Toro’ by Michael Morpurgo.

Similarly, the English Department also created some amazing book covers with their S2 classes to celebrate ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak , ‘Catching Fire’ by Suzanne Collins, ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ by Roald Dahl, the Harry Potter series and Tam O’Shanter by Robert Burns.

There were three winning categories all picked by our lovely office staff.  These included, the most creative, colourful and eco-friendly.  However, as the designs were extremely good, I decided to choose another winner but asked our headteacher to choose.  I was really glad that the final decision was not left up to myself.

An S3 Maths class won the most creative, an S1 Art class won the most colourful and an S1 Social Subjects class won the most eco-friendly and an S2 English class won the headteacher’s choice.

Well done and thanks to all staff and pupils who took part in this event.  It was really wonderful to see how enthusiastic and industrious everyone was.

Look at the Scottish Book Trust Website to read a fuller account of our World Book Day event.

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Caldervale’s New Year

It’s been a busy few months in Caldervale High School’s Library Resource Centre.  It all began with the BOOKies’ Burns Supper way back in January.  The school’s two book groups joined forces to present an informal, traditional Burns Supper.  It was so informal in fact that we had cardboard cutout bagpipes escort in the haggis!!  Our school piper was unavailable, as was our usual stand-in fiddler.  The pupils were wonderful, leading the proceedings, addressing the haggis, toasting the lassies and laddies and providing poetic entertainment.  Everyone had a great time.

Our second event was much more sombre – our Holocaust Memorial Day Commemoration.  Staff from the Social Subjects and RME Departments spoke to the book groups about the background to the Holocaust and the impact of more recent atrocities.  One of the second year BOOKies lit a candle in remembrance and a moments silence was observed.  The pupils were then able to peruse a selection of holocaust themed fiction.

Then this week we managed a trip out to the Mitchell Library in Glasgow to attend the Scottish Children’s Book Awards.  Every year the Scottish Booktrust does a fantastic job of organising the awards.  This year each age category had its own venue within the Mitchell Library.  Our group enjoyed the 4 part quiz, round 1 was guess the book from the movie still, round 2 was book cryptographs, round 3 was based on the shortlisted books and finally, a general book knowledge round.  Great fun, interspersed with author talks from the shortlisted novellists; Diana Hendry for The Seeing, Barry Hutcheson for Book of Doom and Claire McFall for The Ferryman.  Everyone was pleased to see Claire McFall take the award, although secretly our group had been rooting for Barry Hutchison.

To bring us bang up to date, we held our annual World Book Day Quiz.  Teams of pupils and staff combined forces to do battle to be the team with the best book knowledge.  Two rounds of questions and lots of sweets later, the winning team emerged as “Radioactive Tuna Pasta” with 18.5 points out of a possible 22.  The team with the most original name was judged to be “We will do anything for Sweets” and they were rewarded with chocolate Easter Eggs – quite appropriate I thought!

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A message from Nicola Morgan

I have a suggestion which I hope will be useful to you.

I often have offers, competitions, giveaways, and links to fascinating
research – things to benefit or interest schools, parents, readers,
professionals who work with young people or who are interested in the same
topics as me – notably the brain, stress, and the reading brain. But how
can you be sure to see the information, without the time-consuming task of
reading my blog?

So, I’m starting a newsletter. Less than once a month, it will bring items
of interest or benefit to you – offers, competitions and giveaways; links
to new research about the brain/ teenage brain/ stress/ reading/ literacy;
and exclusive offers – including, in each issue, a prize for a
randomly-selected subscriber. Schools or event organisers will see months
ahead where I’m booked to speak, and will have the chance to book an event
at reduced cost.

If you would like to sign up, the simple form is

You can unsubscribe any time but I hope you will find it so useful,
interesting and unintrusive that you won’t want to!

Please feel free to pass this to colleagues or friends.

With very best wishes for 2014,

*Nicola Morgan*
*Writes, speaks and blogs*

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The tale of Betty the Machete

Kirkland meets Angus and Brian the Brain at OLHS

Kirkland meets Angus and Brian the Brain at OLHS

3rd year pupils at Our Lady’s enjoyed an hour with Kirkland Ciccone, author of Catalyst longlisted Conjuring the Infinite. Kirkland ran through his own reading experiences as a child, explaining the impact of different characters and series at particular times in his life.

Pupils enjoyed Kirkland’s stories about growing up in Cumbernauld, with its lovely libraries and unattractive buildings (his words, not mine). Highlights included how not to get bullied (courtesy of Betty the Machete), the adventures of his young detective club, and an illustrated guide to when book titles go wrong.

Not surprising then that the pupils had a great time, and clustered round to get autographs and buy books. It’s fair to say that 3rd year now have the most autographed English jotters in the school.

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Society of Authors report: benefits of author visits

The Society of Authors has completed  research on the benefit of author visits for literacy and reading for pleasure. The report also recognises the importance of school librarians in organising author visits.

See the results here.

From the Society of Authors:

Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, has written to Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s Chief Inspector, presenting this evidence in order to encourage Ofsted to acknowledge the importance of school libraries and validate this by making it part of their inspections process.

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Neil Gaiman: Annual Reading Agency Lecture

Update 15th October: edited version of Neil Gaiman’s lecture is available here.

Neil Gaiman by Chenanceou [Public Domain]

Neil Gaiman by Chenanceou [Public Domain]

See below for a variety of reports on Neil Gaiman‘s lecture to the Reading Agency on 14th October 2013.

Reading Agency: Neil Gaiman delivers our second annual lecture

BBC News: Neil Gaiman: ‘No such thing as a bad book for children’

Independent: Neil Gaiman: Closing libraries ‘is like stopping the vaccination programmes’

Guardian: Neil Gaiman: Let children read the books they love

Bookseller: Gaiman: closing libraries ‘like stopping vaccinations’

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Author Kirkland Ciccone visits Coltness High School

Kirkland Ciccone with pupils from Coltness High School.

Kirkland Ciccone with pupils from Coltness High School.

We had a visit from author Kirkland Ciccone on Friday 13th September to talk to fourth year pupils about his debut young adult novel entitled Conjuring the Infinite. The book is set in a youth offenders’ institute for troubled teenagers.   It’s a cracking read, revealing a world of sorcery, supernatural powers, with a good mystery thrown in. Kirkland was very funny and entertaining but his enthusiasm for books was really plain for all to see. Kirkland also writes and performs in his own one man shows for theatre. He is also in the middle of writing his second young adult novel.

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Neil Gaiman – feral library child

If you’re feeling in need of appreciation, have a gander at this interview from 2010 with Neil Gaiman.

We’ve gone from looking at a desert, in which a librarian had to walk into the desert for you and come back with a lump of gold, to a forest, to this huge jungle in which what you want is one apple. And at that point, the librarian can walk into the jungle and come back with the apple. So I think from that point of view, the time of librarians, and the time of libraries—they definitely haven’t gone anywhere.

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Caldervale’s BOOKies’ Burns Supper

On Tuesday 29th of January, a few days late! Caldervale’s S1-S4 book groups, The BOOKies & Catalyst, hosted their 10th annual Burns Supper.

The pupils in the groups had been planning the Supper since the beginning of the new term and with a little bit of help from the LRC Manager, had selected music and poetry to entertain their guests.

Two members of the Catalyst group chaired the event and were joined by members of the BOOKies, who “Addressed the Haggis”, performed “The Immortal Memory” and  “The Selkirk Grace”.  The school’s captains “Toasted the Lassies” and responded in kind, with much hilarity from the audience.  In the absence of a school piper, the haggis was very ably “fiddled” by one of the school’s 3rd year pupils.

The Home Economics Dept did a fantastic job of decorating the room and preparing the wonderful haggis, neeps and tatties.  While one of the pupil’s parents contributed a lovely dumpling for dessert.

Scottish Booktrust Live Literature Funding enabled the group to invite local storyteller, Gerry Durkin, to the school for a class visit on the day of the supper and he kindly agreed to stay to be guest of honour at the event.

Everyone involved had a great time.  The pupils excelled themselves, coming to practices almost every day at lunchtime to try and get their pronunciations perfect and learning their pieces off by heart.  I couldn’t have been prouder if they had been my own children!

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Sir Terry Pratchett on libraries

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