Writing this from Kabwe where I'm with the Sport in Action Students getting letters for The letters to Africa project. I've made lots of contacts and will be going to my first school tomorrow. Yesterday I saw the Sports In Action team in action for the first time, playing sports and traditional games with well over a hundred children from on eof the poorest areas of Zambia. It was an amazing experience and I got some fabulous photographs. Paulka, the photographer has taken about four or five hundred.
Next week I am going to Zambia to research and write material for a book produced by students of the MA in Writing for Children and MA in Publishing at the University of Central Lancashire. My visit is in conjunction with an Education through Sport project, whose aim is to educate on health issues through sport and games.
Other members of the writing/publishing team will be visiting Kenya next month. On both visits, we will take letters written by primary children across Lancashire, to which African children will write replies. We will also aim to get answers to the many interesting questions the children asked in their letters.
The book, Letters to Africa, will include some of those letters between English and African children as well as facts and fiction on Africa, a glossary of the Maa language and photographs and illustrations by university students. All profits from sales of the book will go to provide educational resources in Africa. I will produce both fact and fiction for the book, so will be keeping a journal and conducting interviews as part of my research while I'm in Zambia. If I have access to a computer/web I'll post updates on my blog while I'm away, otherwise I'll do so when I return.
Once again, congratulations are due to multi-award-winning author David Almond, who has been shortlisted for the Hans Christian Andersen prize, awarded biennially since 1956 to an author “whose complete works have made lasting contributions to children’s literature”. An impressive line-up of past winners includes Eleanor Farjeon, Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren. This year's winner will be announced on 23 March.
As we announced in an earlier newsletter, David is also nominated for The Astrid Lindgren award, which is presented a day later, on 24 March, at Lindgren’s birth place in Vimmerby, Sweden. The award is worth SEK5m (£460,000) and is given to a body of work “in the spirit of Astrid Lindgren, with a focus on a profound respect for democratic values and human rights”.
(March 19th New WritingNorth Newsletter)
As regular blog readers know, David is my favourite children's author. In fact he's my favourite author all round. His nominations are well deserved as anyone who's read his books will agree.
Did you know that you can listen to the stories featured in this year's World Book Day books read by famous authors and actors online. This is available through a project called, Read to a Million Kids. Click on the link: http://www.readtoamillionkids.co.uk/ Then click on the red videos tab at the top of the home page. Scroll down the page and choose the books you want to hear. You might like to read about the authors too. If so click on the blue tab.
The books themselves are still available for just a pound. They're especially good value this year as they contain two books in one. Children: If you've still got your token don't forget to trade it in by the end of March for one of the free books or use it to get a pound off a book or audio book of your choice. Adults: check out the fabulous books and recordings which cover the full age range of children's books from pre-school to teenage. Let me know which you read or listen to and what you thought.
Don't miss this research-based article from the Independent. It's extremely interesting to anyone interested in children's reading.
Boys read as much as girls, but prefer the simpler books
At all ages, girls score more highly on reading tests, survey shows
By Richard Garner, Education Editor
The Independent: Monday, 1 March 2010
Girls are reading Stephanie Meyer's 'Twilight' saga, while boys are turning to Peter Lancett's 'Dark Man' series
First the good news: boys are reading as much as girls. Now the bad: the books they choose are far less challenging and easier to comprehend than those selected by girls, and this gets worse as they grow older.
The findings of a major study of 100,000 children's reading habits coincide with national curriculum test results which show that – at all ages – girls score more highly on reading tests. "Boys are clearly reading nearly as much as girls, a finding that may surprise some onlookers," said Professor Keith Topping, of the University of Dundee's school of education, who headed the study. "But boys are tending to read easier books than girls. The general picture was of girls reading books of a consistently more difficult level than boys in the same year."
The gap in the standard of their reading habits becomes most marked between the ages of 13 and 16, the report says. The favourite girl's book in this age group is Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer, the first in the vampire romance series that has sold 85 million copies worldwide. This was ranked far more difficult to read than the boys' favourite, The Dark Never Hides, from the British novelist Peter Lancett's Dark Man series, illustrated fantasy novels aimed at reluctant teens and young adults struggling to read.
The study notes that both sexes tend to choose books that are easier to read once they reach the age of 11 and transfer to secondary school. Compared with a similar study two years ago, the Harry Potter author JK Rowling has tumbled down the top 10 most popular children's authors, from second to ninth place.
Boys, in particular, chose not to read her books, which are considered more challenging than many other children's titles. "Perhaps the lapse in popularity of the Harry Potter books ... has left boys with few high difficulty books they have the urge to attack," Professor Topping added.
One author to shoot into the top 10 for the first time - at number two - is Roderick Hunt, whose 300 The Magic Key books, following the lives of three children and their dog, Floppy, are used in 80 per cent of British schools to teach people how to read. Roald Dahl still tops the chart.
The report, commissioned by Renaissance Learning, which pioneers online reading tests widely in use in US schools to determine the reading age of children, recommends that teachers should closely monitor the reading habits of their pupils, particularly the boys. "As with adult reading, kids will not always read to the limit of their ability," Professor Topping said. "Even high-achieving readers do not challenge themselves enough as they grow older."
The report recommends an expansion of the school library service, with schools encouraged to stock every book which appears in the top 10 favourites for each age group. The children's reading habits were confirmed by taking online quizzes on the books they had read.
The findings reverse the conclusions of a similar survey two years ago when boys were found to be opting for harder-to-read books than girls.
Dorothy loves writing and encouraging others to write too! When one of her stories for children won the Pinestein Press Things that go Bump competition she was asked to write three short stories, The Ghost Twin Tales which appeared in the book, Mini Mysteries and Kooky Spookies. Another competition winning story, Munch the Storytelling Cow, was recorded as a podcast by celebrity TV presenter, Gail Porter.
Dorothy is currently studying for an MA in Writing for Children at the University of Central Lancashire and is featured in the UCLan publication Letters to Africa, an exciting publication containing leters, fiction, facts, illustrations and photographs.