I’ve known Renita for a while now. Originally from America, Renita now lives in Wigtown, which the book town in Scotland, with the most stunning views across the estuary. 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” [...]
As English children prepare for their new spelling and punctuation tests, It makes me wonder about the outcome of all this testing.
The testing of children is one-sided and far too academic. Where are the art exams for eleven year olds? The music exams? The interpersonal skills exams, the cooking, the athletic, the talking and the reading for pleasure exams? These are all real skills in life that are ignored by those academics and politicians who run education and wish everyone to be like them and damn them if they aren’t.
Those who excel in real life skills are taught by the education system that they are failures, that spelling and punctuation is all that matters, followed closely by maths and the cold analysis of text. Fail in those and you are a failure.
If those who excel in tests – those who go on to become politicians, set the tests and run education – were made to sit tests in art, drawing, gymnastics, football, astronomy, fashion, music and any number of relevant subjects, they would also know what it is like to be deemed a failure at the age of eleven.
I am all for good spelling and punctuation, but this comes with culture. If correct spelling and punctuation are expected and rewarded, then the achievement levels will rise. If it is made the subject of do or die testing – for the school as much as for the pupil – then for every happy smiling face on results day, there will be a crying, shame-faced failure, stigmatised for the rest of their lives.
“I’m no good at spelling,” they’ll say in their defence. “Look I’ve got a certificate to prove it!” And so the path of their lives is set for them by those to claim to have their best interests at heart.
Neuroscience is showing us daily how different we all are, how some just see the world in a different way to others. The internet is changing the way everything is done. New, previously unheard of skills are demanded daily, and yet academics are obsessed with preserving tests relevant to the age of coal and steam.
Let us have a level playing field. If you are not wired up for perfect spelling or number-crunching, let it be possible to show how amazingly you are wired up for the things in which you excel – the very skills that the world needs now.
My legacy is that I learned to draw feet a little better than before. While researching for my Olympia books, I looked at a lot of drawings on ancient Greek pots. The drawings were a revelation. I’d never really looked at them closely before. The style and often the drawings themselves were drawn again and again and passed down from father to son or master to apprentice. All the time the style was refined so that graceful athletes could be portrayed in a very few stokes of the pen or inscribed with a stylus.
I find I often go to the Old Greek Masters for inspiration and understanding of how to draw simply as well as how to understand the world in general. The old philosophers had it pretty well sorted!
If you were thinking of getting one or two, It really helps support this website and my drawing videos if you use the Amazon Links below. Thanks.
Are you dyslexic? If you are you are really lucky – you are one o f the creative people that make this world worth living in. You’ll find all those “normal” people don’t understand you and you probably don’t understand them – they want everything so neat and tidy and sorted out into nice little boxes that can be ticked.
Because dyslexics have to work harder to fit in, they tend to be entrepreneurs and leaders and creatives – the people who make it all worthwhile.
So, please don’t think of it as a disease or something you suffer from. You are blessed to be among the people who make this world worth living in. Enjoy the brilliant way your brain has been wired up. :) Here’s a video with some of my thoughts about dyslexia
and here is another!
I’m having great fun with this project. I loved Geometry when I was young and geometry so informs what I draw. An understanding of simple geometry helps so much in shape and pattern recognition when sorting out how to draw something. I think a bit of geometry is a great thing for would-be artists to have.
The idea of the ebook is to show shapes and how they are constructed using story, illustration, diagrams and How to videos.
I’m planning on making a paper version too. I need to get on with things because I’m booked to give a Euclid session at the Wigtown Book Festival at the ned of September. There’s nothing like a deadline to keep a project moving!
I love it when parents tell me that the first book their child read all on their own was one of mine. Often the book they mention is the Ginger Ninja. They tell me how reluctant the children were to read but, for some reason, this was the one that grabbed their attention.
I remember very well the first book I read on my own. Because my parents were in the army, I went to boarding school when I was five years old. I was the only full boarder in the school. There were one or two weekly boarders and kids who stayed while their parents were away.
On Sunday mornings I would wake on my own in a four bed dormitory in a beautiful Queen Anne mansion, and wait until I was told it was time to get up. The owners of the school were pillars of local society and often out late on Saturday night, so Sunday morning lie-ins could be quite extended!
I was desperate to learn how to read. I knew those book things were filled with wonderful stories. There was nothing I like better as a child, than listening to stories. I realised that if I could work out the trick of reading, I’d be able to have stories on tap.
I remember badgering my class teacher to do extra reading in break times and after-school. The Head Master or his wife would tuck me up in bed at night and do some more reading practice.
I don’t know why, but my father bought me stories from the Blackberry Farm series by Jane Pilgrim. Small Square books that were just right for small hands, they were maybe well marketed at the time and easily available where he went shopping. They had just the right amount of text on each page and lovely pictures of all the animals that I got to know and love. Walter Duck was my particular favourite in his rakish college scarf!
It was a sunny Sunday morning and, as usual, I looked through my little collection of books, telling the stories to myself by looking at the pictures.
I opened Christmas at Blackberry Farm, a warm and cosy tale in which Mr and Mrs Smiles, the perfect middle-class English couple, invite their animals in for a wonderful Christmas meal and presents.
I can remember to this day how a feeling come over me, and how I heard a little voice I’m my head saying, “you can read this – you can do it on your own!”
And I did, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, until I reached the end of the book. I can also still remember the amazing feeling of success. I had done it! I had read a whole book all on my own – I had to do it again there and then! And so I did. I read another Blackberry Farm Book and another.
And that is how children get to be good readers and that’s why series of books, with strong characters and short, sharp, snappy stories, are so important at this stage of reading, when children have just learned the trick of reading all by themselves.
They need piles of books that they can recognise as being similar to the one they just managed to read all on their own. They need characters whom they get to know and love, characters that become friends and help them on their reading journey.
That Christmas my sister and brother hung up a sheet for a curtain in the sitting room and we put on an entertainment for my parents. I read Christmas at Blackberry Farm, all on my own, from beginning to end. I still remember that too, another wonderful staging post in my learning to read adventure.
What was the first book that you read? Which series helped you gain confidence reading on your own? Which characters helped you on your reading journey?
Some time ago I wrote a new Ginger Ninja story – just a short one, to introduce a new character. There was a bit of interest on maybe making Ginger a TV series. Nothing came of that , but I did have to come up with seven more story ideas and this little story introduced Candy – the local millionaire’s daughter, – who thinks that everything , including Ginger, can be bought.
I read the story again last week. It need a tweak or two and then I thought I would add some illustrations and make it a free eBook to my Newsletter subscribers. All you have to do is fill in the subscribe form on the right and follow the instructions.
Here’s a video about drawing the cover pictures
and here is another video of all the other drawings speeded up.
You’ll find it fits well in iBooks on an iPad. As it is a pdf, it should play on almost any PC, tablet or laptop quite a lot of phones too! Enjoy :)
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.
My Illustrator friend, Kate Sheppard, came round this week to show me the dummy of a picture book she’s been working on. It’s wonderful! But I would say that… is a synthesis of two ideas I played about with a while back. I couldn’t get the ideas to work because they obviously needed to come together to make sense.
I didn’t or couldn’t make that connection, but Kate did – But How come we both had the same-ish ideas? And why am I not bothered that Kate got it right and I didn’t?
I was thrilled to see the book and add my thoughts to it because I’ve finally seen the idea come to fruition and can close that chapter in my head.
If I thought that was the last idea I’d ever have, then that would be a sorry day. I played with the ideas – learned a whole load of stuff and have moved on to other things. Luckily, those ideas found Kate, who has done a fabulous job and has created what I think will become a classic. Any picture book editor who doesn’t make an offer on the spot should… drink four pints of blue, fizzy soda, eat a pound of jelly babies and think again!
It’s Mother’s Day in the USA next weekend, so I’ve done some tutorials for all my viewers in the States, showing how to write MOM in different ways. four more to come tomorrow.