Yesterday I did my last ever event at Burford School as their Patron of Reading, sob! I started there in June 2014 and have really enjoyed my visits over the past three years.
Patron of Reading is a very special position to hold, and I’ve been so honoured to work with Burford; in particular the librarian there, Lynne Cooper. Lynne is such a dedicated member of staff, as many school librarians are, and she’s lucky to be supported so strongly by the senior leadership there, especially the head, Mrs Haig.
I feel strongly, as many do, that a library should be the heart of the school, and certainly at Burford it is used to maximum capacity! There are lessons in there, book clubs, awards shadowing groups, Accelerated Reader and all kinds of things I have no knowledge of as an outsider. Lynne has recently been joined by assistant Ashley, who is not only a fab librarian but also sports a wonderful range of frocks!
I’ve spoken at senior and junior prize-giving days, attended tea parties for readers who’ve made the most progress over the year and given workshops on creative writing and how to write a book review. I’ve met prospective parents at Open Evening and given talks on how to encourage reluctant readers to parents of Y7 pupils.
I’ve even done a workshop with much older students, encouraging them to write language they would actually use themselves (teachers are forewarned about this one!). It’s been wonderful to have that special relationship with a school that actively supports reading for pleasure, and I’m very sad to reach the end of my three-year tenure!
It’s also due to my association with Burford that I met 16-year-old Pheebs, a very promising and gifted young writer. I awarded Pheebs first place in a short story competition a couple of years ago and was so impressed with her that I asked her to be involved in the Chipping Norton Literary Festival last year as a junior reporter. I shall follow Pheebs’ career with interest!
To any schools, primary and secondary, state and private, who don’t yet have a patron of reading, I really urge you to consider it. If the school gets fully behind the idea, it can reap dividends for the children there. And to any authors not yet attached to a school, it’s a wonderful thing to be involved in.
I am now patron of reading at Didcot Girls’ School, but I hope to go back to Burford School many times in the coming years as a visiting author.
Many thanks to Kathy Haig and Lynne for making my three years so rewarding – and I hope to see you all again soon!