Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Reading Comedians

I've noticed something about children's reading habits that I'd not spotted before.

When I go into schools I ask kids what they like to read. In the last five years I've had at least 50,000 responses from the 300,000 kids I've spoken to.

The big names are always the same:

Jacqueline Wilson

Michael Morpurgo

Roald Dahl

But - in the last year - there is a genre being mentioned more and more by year sevens and eights.

Comedians' autobiographies.

It started with the odd mention of Harry Hill, then Michael McIntyre (left).

I was at Noadswood School in Hythe, Southampton earlier this week. I asked the kids about it.

Out of 210 kids, at least 50 had read comedians' autobigraphies.

I asked them for a list of names of comedians' books they'd read. Here it is:

Harry Hill

Michal McIntyre

Ricky Gervais

Alan Carr

Russell Brand

Lee Evans

Jeremy Clarkson (!)

Ant & Dec

Peter Kay

Al Murray

So what are we going to do about it? We've used football to promote reading. How about comedians? Using their books and their appeal to enthuse more young readers.

Would the comedians want to help us? Of course they would.

One boy at Hythe suggested the comedian might like to do sketches around reading. Great idea.

One issue could be that comedians talk and write about stuff that some people might not want year sevens and eights to be aware of. But, let's face it, they are more aware of most of that stuff than adults are, so we need to get round that.

I'll have a word with the inspired staff at the National Literacy Trust. See what we can do...

Monday, 11 July 2011

We need more literary festivals

I was at Noadswood High School in Hampshire today.

Day one of the Wessex Schools Literary Festival, four schools working together to bring authors to meet children.

They are hosting author events with Ali Sparkes, Chris Bradford, Andy Mulligan and many more. All listed in a festival programme.

There is a festival read: I am Number Four.

Also: quizzes, a book v film debate, book crossing and other projects.

They have attracted support from Costa, Asda, Waterstone's and the local council. And many others.

I think this is a great scheme. To attract big name authors to come to four schools that are very close together is a great achievement.

The idea of a festival is powerful. It appeals to everyone. Publishers. Booksellers. Authors. Libraries. Readers. The media.

I think this is because when you focus a lot of activity in one place in a short period of time it creates a buzz in among all the players listed above.

When I worked at Bradford Library, putting on author events, I found it much easier to attract authors to the Bradford Book Festival that we created than for regular events during the year.

There is sometimes cynicism that there are too many literature festivals. I disagree. I think there need to be more.