The 3rd of March is World Book Day and this year it’s celebrating its 25 year anniversary with the theme “You are a reader”. World Book Day is a day recognised in over 100 countries across the world and is a charity sponsored by National Book Tokens which aims to promote reading for pleasure, offering every child and young person the opportunity to have a book of their own.
In 2021, 54 thousand books were donated to children by publishers, to support World Book Day with their mission.worldbookday.com
This year, I was honoured to have been invited to St Luke’s Church of England Primary School in West Norwood to read and discuss the themes of my debut children’s book, My World – Mackilli and Seeva’s Switcheroo! I had the pleasure of sharing my book with Years 2, 3 and 4 and loved the feedback and ideas I received from the children (or ‘learners’ as they are known in this school).
Morning assembly at St Luke’s
The day started with a fantastic assembly where I was introduced to the whole school. It was great to see such diverse faces in both the teaching staff and the pupils as my book touches on themes of differences and people being unique and special in their own way.
MC Grammar kicked off the day with an energetic song about books and story-telling, followed by Nadia Shireen, who went on to read a short story from her book Welcome to Grimwood. It was encouraging to see these more established creatives present their work and really geared me up to hold my workshops later on.
The children’s (and teacher’s) costumes were fantastic! They were asked to dress up as characters from books they’ve read already or planned to read. I saw a few Rockets (from Look Up!), an Oompa Loompa (from Charlie and The Chocolate Factory) as well as children dressed up as Rosa Parks and Cruella Deville.
My World Workshops
After assembly, I made my way through through the school, starting with Year 2. I began by introducing myself as a children’s book illustrator and author and asked the children what they knew about these professions. I was very impressed by the answers and how enthusiastic they were about drawing, writing and creativity in general.
Before I started reading the book, I asked the learners what they thought the book was about. They observed the cover and the title and Year 3 in particular were very accurate in their response, stating that it could be a story about two aliens who switch places. This was very reassuring as the illustrator/writer!
During the reading, I asked them if they would prefer to live in the colourful and busy world of Stiplop (where Seeva lives) or the quiet and relaxing world of Mimpal (where Mackilli lives). The majority of the learners said they preferred the bright colours and activity of Stiplop but appreciated the need for some time out and peace and quiet in Mimpal.
A teachable moment
Part way through the story, I asked the class what they thought of these unique looking alien characters.
A few of the learners said that they didn’t like Seeva’s grey afro and that it looked weird. Here, we paused and reflected on how it might be hurtful to comment negatively about the way somebody looks.
We looked around the room and discussed how we all have different hair, skin, heights and personalities and that was OK and something to be celebrated!
By the end of the discussion, we were all in agreement that we should respect and appreciate people’s differences. It was lovely progress!
It was important for me to explain that differences are part of what makes them who they are and they should be proud of these things. We all look different and have different skills and abilities but we can still be friends and inspire each other, just like Mackilli and Seeva do in the story.
It was great to see how excited the children were about reading, the fantastic costumes and how much value imagination and creative expression has in their lives!
The fact that the school’s vision is that “every child is a unique gift from God” fits so well with the themes of individuality and loving ones differences found in my book, which made it even more of a rewarding experience for me.
The day was also filmed by World Book Day, which was quite nerve-wracking but I’m so glad I was able to be part of this day. Reading and writing has always been something that’s interested me and has lead me to writing blogs like this as well as poetry and children’s books, so I hope that my visit has inspired the children of St. Luke’s to have a go at writing their own stories in the future.
I’d like to thank Ms Francis (Deputy Headteacher) and Miss Madden (Early Years teacher) in particular, for having me and I look forward to seeing the children’s love for literacy grow!
My time at St Luke’s felt so rewarding and positive, that I would love to continue holding similar workshops in pop ups, schools and community groups.
If you would like me to host a session(s) at your establishment (or virtually), please do get in touch. The workshop (30 mins to 1 hour) would include the following, adjusted for the ages of the children:
- Reading through parts of My World – Mackilli and Seeva’s Switcheroo!
- Discussing themes of difference and acceptance
- Understanding literacy techniques
- Drawing aliens and giving them a personality (character development)
- Writing a short poem about the alien the child draws
- Opportunity for parents and guardians to purchase a copy of My World and any accompanying merchandise
- Free signed copy of My World for your organisation, if applicable.
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