A little while ago, I was contacted by Dan Morrow, who asked me to look over a picture book idea he and his brother, Derek had been working on. He said I should be honest. I felt the story needed a bit of editing and tightening up and made some suggestions. I never heard back from him!
Just as I was starting to think, maybe I’d suggested too much and had maybe upset Dan, I received another email from him. He’d revised the story, and now they were going to make an animated movie – Would I possibly record the narration, voice-over soundtrack? How could I say no to such a determined young man?
Last night, I was wondering wether they would actually make the movie when, ping! – an email arrived saying is was done! Comet – The Movie – was live on YouTube!
I think it’s rather fabulous. If you know anything about animation, you will appreciate how much work has gone into the making of this little movie. Please go and have a look, click the like button, subscribe to Dan’s channel and leave a message too. I think you may be witnessing the beginning of a very successful animation career from a very determined partnership – and you will be able to say say, “Oh, yeah, I’ve been following them from the start!”
I used to worry about repeating myself but, when writing stories for very young readers, I love repeating words and phrases, twisting them gently to create new, surprising meanings with the same jumble of words and letters. It helps increase word recognition and the decoding of meaning.
Repetition is the essence of learning, making strong connections and pathways that form the foundations on which new connections are built. Repetition in physical activity is a given – press-ups, shooting at goal, exercises at the barre.
Reading is the the most difficult skill most of us will ever set out to master. But somehow, we have come to underestimate the difficulty and assume that it’s the job of schools to sort it out. But schools can’t cope with all they are asked to do, especially the way the curriculum continues to be fiddled about with.
Every time there is a crisis, the same voices wail in the media, “Schools should be teaching this!” And so more gets dumped on schools and they are expected to cope.
Schoolchildren now work at conceptual levels that are so much higher than they were in my childhood. Don’t believe the dumbing down stories. Children these days have to learn a breadth of information and life skills that hardly existed for my generation.
Once, Literacy meant the ability to read and write. Now it seems to have been redefined as the ability to write and decode text. And yet, for all the expense and effort, reading and writing levels fail to improve – arguably they have decreased.
I’ll repeat myself:
Reading is the the most difficult skill most of us will ever set out to master.
Phonics are great as a help when children are learning to read, but that is not the end of it. They need books, and most importantly they need stories. Stories with a beginning and a middle and a satisfying end, not an extract full of adverbs.
Children need to read bucket loads of books, and to get them to read books they need great stories. Children are hard-wired to listen to and learn from stories. Once they know that between the covers of a book lie multiple, parallel universes in which they can reside and become the heroes and heroines, they become addicted and want more. But they need to know those stories are there in the first place.
If there is no time for reading at school, how will they find it at home, where they are barraged by the cheap, unsatisfying pulp of the TV, internet, games and texting? If reading is not promoted or cherished at school or at home why should they bother? If they are never read to, how do they know what lies between the covers and why should they care? Why should they be bothered to read the books when they can wait and watch it on DVD?
If you want to improve your children’s writing skills it’s easy… let them read books – lot and lots of them. How are they ever supposed to learn the skill if they never practice? Want to be a great footballer? Watch Beckham or Ronaldo. Want to make great movies? Go watch a lot of movies. Want to be a Blue Peter presenter? Try watching Blue Peter!
How can children possibly hope to learn to write and improve their writing skills if they rarely see it being done and have no idea what it is they are trying to achieve?
Want to be able to write, understand particle physics or just do well in SATS? Then learn to read. All human knowledge is wrapped up in books. To be able to access that knowledge you need to be a fluent reader, and to become a fluent reader you need to do the work and read a lot of books.
Repetition, reading the words again and again, in new combinations until you can read anything with out thinking, allows the brain to get on with the business of learning what it is that the words have to say.
We all know how repetition is boring – doing the same press-ups every day, we soon give up and go flabby.
But the wonder of stories is that the repetition is wrapped up and served differently every time. Each new story somehow leads to another. Stories make the hard work of learning to read a pleasure. Stories should be at the core of education, cherished and repeated. Every school day should end with story-time, yes – even in secondary school. Stories – read aloud, just for the joy of it.
Not everything in life needs to have a measurable outcome. But reading stories, just for the joy of it, reading lots of stories, again and again, has the most immeasurable outcome of all: Literacy – the ability to read and find out independently, to understand, add to and pass on the learned knowledge.
This all comes from the core skill – reading. I hope you won’t mind if I repeat myself again.
Reading is the the most difficult skill most of us will ever set out to master.
If you want to improve your children’s writing skills it’s easy… let them read books – lot and lots of them.
There has been a meme going around YouTube for a little while called “Drawing My Life”. YouTubers tell the story of their lives while drawing, usually with stickmen drawn with dry wipe markers on a whiteboard. A lot of people have asked me to do a draw my life video over the last few months.
The trouble is that most of the people who make draw my life videos are quite young and they manage to fit most of their lives into one video. Well, I’ve been around quite a few years now, so I’m going to have to do quite a few episodes!
Also, I should really try to draw with something a bit more like the rest of my channel, with pens and markers or watercolour. I’ve been thinking about it for quite a while, How I should go about it, how I should break my life up into episodes and what are the best bits to draw?
I think I’ve worked out the formula and, with some trepidation, I have started on what is going to be a pretty massive project. I could really do with your support if you like it. Please tweet, share, Facebook and tell al your friends on all the forms of social media you use. If you do – many thanks.
It’s going to be a bit of a history lesson too, so you may find it informative and useful in schools!
When I’ve performed at the festival, the children have all been whipped up to a frenzy by Renita, who welcomes them in and “settles them down” with songs about stinky things and choruses that end in “Eeeeuew!”
Renita has begun putting stories on YouTube for all to share. Here is one that has so many Ps in it I’m surprised we can still see through the lens of the camera by the end of the story.
Checkout her YouTube channel here and make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss any new stories!
Follow me as I make an iPad iBook over the next few weeks on my YouTube channel. I’m going to document all the various stages involved including research, reference, sketching, planning, illustrating, design on iBooks Author and integral video production.
Super Dad is one of my favourite stories. It’s a real Father’s Day/ Dad’s and Lads kind of book. Dad is just too busy getting on with things that he shuts his son out of his shallow life. When he realises what he is doing, he sees the light and has an amazing day with his son, rebuilding their relationship. It doesn’t take much, just a bit of time and effort.
Get the ipad version, learn to read and share this great story with Dad. Now available on iPad so you can follow along. It contains a quiz and video drawing lesson like this one too! What more could you want to give on Father’s Day? Another pair of comedy socks that won’t ever get worn?
“How will story telling promote a child’s writing ability?” was a search string someone used to get to my website recently. I hope that person was looking for something to back up what they already know, for I find it inconceivable that anyone would seriously need to ask this question.
Stories are the raison d’etre of human existence. Without stories and storytelling humans go mad, cleverly spun stories can drive humans mad too! The pen maybe mightier than the sword but the pen is useless if there are no stories to be told.
What is there to write if there are no stories? How can a child have any writing ability without stories filling their head? Writing is not a a mechanical process – even accountants like to be a little bit creative at times.
If you want to improve writing, you have to read. You cannot learn to write without seeing how others do it. The main problem with lowering literacy levels at the moment, is that children are exposed to far too many extracts and not enough sustained stories with beginnings, middles and ends. Children need to read long texts and books. This way they get comfortable with the author’s “Voice” and assimilate grammar, composition and the author’s style by osmosis.
And how do you get children interested in reading books? By telling stories and reading books out loud. Children are desperate for stories. It’s how they truly learn. It is how adults learn too. Why else do politicians, religions and advertisers rely on storytelling to promote their wares? Because they know storytelling is the most powerful tool humans have access to.
You could keep a class happy all day long by just telling stories and letting them play for a bit every hour – putting the stories to work in imaginative play. They will learn more in that day than in a week of structured schooling.
So where is storytelling in schools these days? All I remember of my school lessons was when we managed to get teachers off the subject to talk about their passions – spiders or steam trains. I learned a lot in those lessons. And those wonderful story lessons where the teachers would spend the whole period reading a book. Greek myths, Just So Stories, Narnia, Swallows and Amazons – tales of adventure and human interaction, slowly learning how the world really works in the minds of others and the interaction between humans.
Find any primitive culture and what do you find? Food, Sex and Storytelling. What is our advanced culture built on now? Food, sex and telly – and what is telly, but storytelling round the fire.
Don’t waste your time asking stupid questions like, “How will story telling promote a child’s writing ability?” The proof of the pudding is in the doing, not the asking. Pick up a book and start telling stories NOW! you’ll be amazed at what happens.
I examined it briefly – not really very interesting – part of me wanted to throw it away, but something made me hold onto it and I put it in my back pocket and carried on walking. Less than a minute later a story formed in my head based on that tiny little shoe
When I got home I started working out the story as a mind map. You can see it and the toy shoe in the picture. Of course I’m not going to show you the whole plan for the story because – well, that would be telling!
It is amazing how tiny little things can grow so quickly into something so amazing as a fully formed idea ready to draw pictures and write words – ready to bring the whole thing to life.