Beachy Books and Newchurch Year 5 children publish a book for Reception

Philip Bell with Year 5 children at Newchurch School Copyright Isle of Wight County Press 2012

Philip Bell, local Island author and publisher at Beachy Books, has just published a book in collaboration with Year 5 children at Newchurch Primary School called Your Journey Starts Here. The book colourfully illustrates and describes to new children some of the exciting things to expect when they begin school at Newchurch. The book will be given to every new child starting Reception at Newchurch School this autumn.

Mr Bell said, “I pitched the idea of creating a book with the children and the school were very keen to get involved. Year 5 teacher, Mrs K Hulmes, suggested the idea of a book for Reception. She asked interested children from her class to write mini-CVs and ‘apply’ to be part of the production team.”

Philip has been working with the school during winter and some of the spring term while helping the children to write, illustrate, photograph and design the unique book. Mr Bell explained how the project was a great learning experience: “I had never published a book in collaboration in a school setting before. I learned as much as the children. They were very capable, helpful and keen to learn all the aspects of book writing and production. I could see how proud they were of all their hard work when they read the final published glossy book.”

The children first had to interview the reception teacher and assistants to ask what the requirements would be for the book and during the production process they learned many skills including planning, teamwork, writing, editing, proofreading and design. The school were particularly keen on the book project as it involved an enterprising aspect as Mr Bell explained: “When the children learned they had to raise funds to pay for the print run they were so excited and proactive. They sold cakes, ran stalls and wrote letters to local businesses for sponsorship.”

The headteacher of Newchurch Primary School, Miss Kirsty Howarth, said: ”I have really liked the enterprise element of the work in that the children have funded the majority of the publishing costs through fundraising and sponsorship, this has been valuable ‘life-long’ learning!”

Copies of Your Journey Starts Here were given to children and their parents at the new intake evening at Newchurch School held in June 2012.

Thanks to local sponsor donations that helped to pay for the print run: Pabulum, The Garlic Farm and Amazon World.

Photo courtesy Isle of Wight County Press – Copyright 2012

Poetry and story writing at Hunnyhill Primary School

“The children thoroughly enjoyed the story and the fact it was read aloud by the author was really engaging. They had a lovely time and afterwards wrote their own nature-inspired poems.”

Kim Arnell, Year 1 teacher, Hunnyhill Primary School

In May I visited Hunnyhill Primary School in Newport, Isle of Wight, to read from our woodland adventure Jack and Boo’s Wild Wood to a year 1 class and then we did some very early poetry. I tried to keep it really simple. I provided a nice sheet with some lines and surrounded the page with illustrations drawn by my wife, Eleanor Bell, (who illustrates our Jack and Boo books) and I asked the children to choose an image that excited them and to then write a sentence about it – whatever came into their heads. We talked about describing things in a new way, as if they had seen it for the first time.

They were obviously very young and some were struggling over spelling (I still am) but I said that didn’t matter for now. Some chose to write whole stories about woodland trolls others wrote single sentences about blackberries and some just wrote out all the names of the things on the sheet. All were unified in wanting to colour in the drawings on the sheets I’d given them! Children love colouring and it helps with their handwriting. After the session I went around and read some of their work or listened to them read to me. A great start on the poetry road.

I then went into a year 2 class and read from the book and we talked about local woods and signs of spring. The teachers commented that it’s great for the children to see a writer (especially a male) reading to them as many need male role models working in this area.

I then asked the children to fold and cut little paper books and write a Jack and Boo style diary-esq story based on any times they had been out into nature. I’ve noticed when I do these sesssions some children want to be more fantastical or write about familiar favourite characters from films, books or favourite TV characters. That’s fine – whatever inspires them I say.

Some children find it difficult to think of anything to write ( I have that problem – it never goes away!). I find it a bit sad when children cannot think of fun simple things they’ve done with their parents or carers to inspire them. I wonder how many are taken out to beaches and woods? When this happens I suggest something simple about a pet they like or a party or event they have enjoyed. I try to keep it simple and work my way around the class ensuring all the children feel engaged.

I’ve observed from previous school sessions, some children prefer to make their book like a comic, with speech bubbles, or just fully illustrate it like an early picture book – again there are no rules or ways to do it because every child is different. I also have the advantage of not having to stick rigidly to the National Curriculum or feel I have to deliver a “lesson” as the teacher can obviously cover that. I think it’s important for children to see there are many ways to skin a cat.

The story session seemed to make an impact as the children all surrounded me at the end waving their illustrated story books, all eager to read them out.

Another great session. Thanks to Hunnyhill for having Beachy Books in Residence.

Jack and Boo visit Holy Cross School

Philip Bell with children at Holy Cross School IOW - Photo:  Isle of Wight County Press Copyright 2012

I visited Holy Cross Primary School, IOW, to read Jack and Boo’s Wild Wood to Reception and Year 1 classes who were all dressed as book characters (no Jack and Boo’s disappointingly) as part of their World Book Day 2012 Celebrations. The children seemed doubly excited when an Isle of Wight Country Press photographer came to snap away and then I read from the book. It was a large room and around 60 children and teachers, so I admit it was a challenge to keep them all engaged. It’s always hard to tell how it went down, but children did put hands up to ask questions and we did a mini-nature spot and name as I read through the book.

It’s a bit shocking to find out so many children haven’t really been out into nature with their parents. I find this very sad, especially as on the Isle of Wight we are surrounded by it. I think many parents have a real issue with “mud”. I say, get over it and get muddy. There are also wonderful things called wellies that prevent you getting too dirty. Children need to be hands on and getting messy is all part of the experience, seeing, feeling, tasting. Fortunately Holy Cross School is in wonderful grounds with great views so the children were able to go on a mini-nature walk after the reading.

I then worked with a year 2 then year 3 class making folding story books, getting the children to think about beginnings, middles and ends. We talked about “cliff-hangers” and how to basically structure a very simple story. They loved the craft element of making and folding the book, and then they all came up with stories. Some fantastic and others about favourite things they had done. I talked about how Jack and Boo stories reflect real adventures out into nature – they are more like poetic diary entries than traditional narratives.

There were a few children who seemed very quiet and hadn’t made a start. When I asked what the problem was they said they didn’t like writing. I told them when I was their age I had preferred drawing to writing and suggested they do it totally visually, like a comic, and if they wanted they could add speech bubbles to tell the story. This perked them up and they managed to produce wonderfully illustrated comic books.

All in all, another great visit. I did ask the school to send me pictures of the finished books and when I have them I will post some. They were all so varied – some more like fan fiction, continuing stories in their favourite universes such as Harry Potter or Star Wars, and others, extremely personal, about their parents or life at home. Wonderful.

“Many thanks again for coming to the school, it was much appreciated and we thank you for your time. The pupils enjoyed the stories and book-making activities – which fitted in really well with the book day theme.”

Gill Hilson, Acting Assistant Head Teacher, Holy Cross School

Photo supplied by Isle of Wight County Press – Copyright 2012.