Tag Archives: reading

Creative Learning Through The Arts

small-bunnyYou may not be aware of it, but Wales is undergoing a radical change in its school curriculum. The Creative Learning Through the Arts Action Plan is a brave move to enhance creativity in the population, having realised that the creative industries are where the future lies.

I’m doing my little bit to get creativity up and flowing again in Welsh schools at the The Archbishop Rowan Williams Church in Wales Primary School in Portskewett.

We are working on a project called Imagine/Notice. I misheard this as Imagine Otis. So that’s what I’m getting the children to do – imagine who or what Otis/Otys/Otice/Oteece is. We’ve had some really wonderful ideas so far.

With Year Two, who are about seven years old, I took a few of the children’s themes and put them together. From that union the story of Otis, the Laser Bunny, grew.

I was thinking about it over half term and came up with the name, Snip-Snap Wolf, and thought perhaps I should write my own version of the story. I then went ahead and made the little animation in the video above.

Amongst other things, the children will be making books out of their stories, which I’m so looking forward to seeing and probably sharing here in time.


The Third and Final Dragon Book

DragonGoldFrontcoverI’m thrilled to announce that Firefly Press have asked me to start work on the third and final book in my Dragon trilogy. This one will be called Dragon Red.

Best-selling Dragon Gold was highly recommended by the Tir-na-nog prize and has had probably the best reader review I’ve ever had, from Milo Jackson aged 8, who said:

I was dazzled by this story.  It is amazing.  I’ve never read a better book in my life!  It’s the best story a boy could read!  I’ve put Dragon White on my Christmas list.

The dragon series is set in modern day Wales and follows the exploits of Harri.  While working on a school project to design a model dragon that can fly for 10 seconds, he is given a dragon egg. He is warned that dragons can be quite a handful. The warning proves to be true – keeping a pet dragon a secret is not an easy task.

Two other characters loom large through the trilogy. The first is Ryan’s Dad. Ryan maybe Harri’s best friend, but Ryan’s Dad has a need to win even if it means battling against a ten year old boy!

The second character is Imelda. Is she really a witch? She’s not a flying broomstick, horror film type Dragon-White-book-cover-v1ewitch, but she certainly knows the old ways and how to make potions that work!

Book 2, Dragon White, came out last autumn and left us with two dragons imprisoned in St Gertrude’s Tower. Two frustrated, locked up dragons can only mean trouble and there is going to be a lot of that in the final book!

Start reading them now so you’ll be ready for when Dragon Red comes out next spring. If you have read them and loved them, then a review on Amazon would be hugely appreciated! ?

Also available as Kindle downloads.

Do children need to learn to read anymore?

magna cartaI obviously think learning to read is a great idea. I earn my living writing children’s books. Children’s hard labour keeps me busy with honest toil.

I wouldn’t want children to grow up without recourse to the wonderful worlds of fantasy that I was able to explore in my youth. Narnia was not just a collection of words, to me it was a real place where, in complete safety, I learned long-lasting lessons about bravery, treachery, politics, sword -fighting and alternative religious ideas.

The wonderful stories I read, pulled me along the path of improving my reading skills. I didn’t know that was what I was doing, I just knew I wanted to read the next in the series. But, back then, there was no question that being able to read and write was a passport to grown-up society, where everything revolved around the written word.

But in a connected world of screens, retina scans, video, text to speech and speech to text, do children still really have to go through that painful, laborious process of learning to read? You just have to watch a pre-school child to see how they deal with technology – it’s as if the instructions were genetically imprinted.

I wouldn’t want children to miss out on all the wonderful characters who inhabited my childhood or my children’s childhoods. But those stories would still be available in apps and movies, videos and t-shirts.

Today is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.

If you could not read its contents, and have read enough to have learned how to interpret and read between the lines, you would have to accept what you were being told about it by the machine that was explaining it to you.

With words, unless they have been burned by a frightened authority, you can always go back to the source. Screens are a cut and paste world where every bit, every byte and every pixel can be carelessly modified by algorithms created by nameless drones working for unaccountable organisations.

Yes, children do still need to learn to read and to learn to read well, to be able to question and interpret. As they grow up into a world we can hardly begin to imagine, they must be able to return to the source codes of honesty, integrity, compromise and law. Those are the real lessons learned in children’s books.

It is the the stories that provide the pleasure that masks the pain and hard labour of learning to read, that make the process an exciting adventure that develops a thirst for knowledge and a dawning understanding of how others view the world. Reading a book is the closet you can get to reading someone else mind.

So I will gladly carry on writing – It’s my duty to try and help the next generation save itself from itself.