Thursday, 19 June 2014

The storybag goes to school - again...

Yesterday, I spent a lovely morning with Class 2 in one of the local village schools in Diseworth; my second ever author visit.

It's such a dinky little school! (You have to remember that my own children went to a large town primary (where I also worked) of over 500 children, so I'm used to a much bigger setup.) I had a quick tour before the children came into school - three classrooms, a central hall, fabulous playground and field area with trim trail, wildlife area and outdoor classroom...all for around forty children. Wonderful! I loved it. I especially wished I could've stayed for lunch - pizza or chicken curry. Nom nom...

Anyway... There were 15 children in Class 2, aged five and six. They were very excited to meet a real author! (I really must get used to that fact : I AM an author!) I was fortunate that the teacher, an old Guiding friend of mine, had already introduced the children to Granny Rainbow a couple of days before.

I started by telling them how Granny Rainbow came to be written, then we finished the Marmalade Machine story which they'd begun in storytime the previous day. I followed that with a chat about some of my favourite books. I'd taken in a selection - some I'd read when I was younger (like King of the Copper Mountains and Children of Willow Tree Farm), others I'd read with my own kids (Horrid Henry and Spy Dog) and I even included poetry with a bit of Doctor Seuss. I don't want these visits just to be about Granny Rainbow, y'see ; they're about reading AND writing AND getting kids enthused about both.

After an hour of fantastic listening, the kids had a bit of a runaround on the field and then we set to with the storybag. (My storybag is full of random objects, and the kids get to pick three things out of it; the stories they write after that have to include all three, but in whatever way they want to.)

The tales we were told! Children never cease to amaze me with their imaginations. The problem I've found is that for some children, their imagination and vocabulary outstrip their writing ability. But - providing you can be a bit creative with how to 'capture' their ideas in pictures or sound or even by writing it down for them as they talk - they can still produce some excellent stories.

The most amazing things happen, because no-one's saying 'that's a daft idea' or 'that wouldn't happen in real life'. So we had baked bean fired rockets and sunflower-sensitive dinosaurs on the moon. We had police cars with reflective shields that were better able to withstand a dragon's flame. We had a rainbow monkey who loved adventures...even when those adventures included a zombie or two!

With the teacher's permission, here's a story from each of the groups...

Rainbow Monkey, cuddly cat and telescope:
Once upon a time there was a rainbow coloured cheeky monkey called Boris who loved an adventure. Shockingly one scary stormy night Boris looked through his shiny yellow telescope and suddenly he could see slimy terrifying zombies were coming towards him. They got closer and closer. The zombie was terrifying. Unfortunately Boris was stuck in some sticky glue. The zombies got even closer. The zombie grabbed the monkey and bit him. Devastatingly he turned into a monkey zombie. His mum was shocked.
Luckily Kitty the cat heard some screams and ran to the rescue but sadly she was too late.

Dinosaur, tin of baked beans, sunflower:
Once upon a time there was a huge dinosaur, his name was Ben. He was a dinosaur who loved baked beans. One day Ben made a rocket out of a baked beans tin. He launched for take-off. Unfortunately there was a flower and it made him sneeze. Bang! Crash! Within minutes he was on the moon. Luckily Ben had an air sack and so he lived on the moon forever eating lots and lots of beans every day. Finally he got fat and bored on his own.

Dragon, police car and wooden cat:
Once upon a time there lived a fire breathing dragon. The dragon is big, hot and scary. There were noisy sirens everywhere around the dragon. It was a devastating, awful and tragic disaster! The sirens were melting like ice on an ice rink on fire. The police wheels were popping like popping candy that you eat. Bang! Boom! Luckily a cat came to their rescue. The cat is cute, small and cuddly. The cat scared the dragon and they all lived happily ever after.

It's a real privilege to share these kind of creative moments with both the teachers and their children - not least because the teachers are enabling the children and celebrating their work.

We've got a few photos, but as before - I forgot to get a group photo with the children! Which is a pain as we (me and the school) were hoping to send one to our local newspaper with a little report. *sighs* Next time... And I have a feeling that there will be some competition entries coming in from Class 2 (follow THIS LINK if you don't know which competition I'm talking about) in the near future - Hooray!

So - huge thanks to Diseworth School, particularly Class 2, for making me feel so welcome, and I look forward to visiting again soon!


  1. What good work you do as an author! You should be really proud of yourself

    1. Thanks, Sonja! Sounds twee maybe - but my aim's to make a difference, not focus on selling books! (Though of course, sales are still rather nice! ;) )