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Laureate Log #6 - July 2008

I've put myself about a bit in this period!  I've done shows at the Brighton Festival and on tour in Scotland taking in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. I met the wonderful Jack Prelutsky, the US's Children's Poet Laureate for a joint show at the American School in Thorpe and contributed to Write Away's conference on non-fiction at the Institute of Education. Then, it was on to the Hay Festival followed by a week of performances for schools at the Barbican with Francesca Beard and a wonderful four-piece Jazz group. I visited Liverpool to do two sessions, one for children (A- Z of poetry tour), the other for teachers and joined in the biggest ever collection of poets for children at the Bethnal Green Museum in London for the forthcoming Oxfam CD of children's poetry. Then it was on to Southampton for their Book Fair, a school near Wellingborough, the Artsmark Award ceremony at London's South Bank, Holland Park Comprehensive, Camden teachers, a conference for the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education, an in-conversation session with Jackie Kay as part of her receiving the CLPE Poetry Award for the best poetry book for children this  year, then on to  a secondary school in Nottingham, the Ledbury Poetry Festival with Jackie Kay and Francesca Beard for an A-Z show, a school in Shrewsbury, a day out in Oxford with the finalists of the Kids' Literature Quiz, a big read-in at Coram's Fields in Camden to celebrate the National Year of Reading, finishing up with the launch of the Summer Reading Challenge at the House of Commons and a conference at Tate Britain on play. In between, it was good to work at, Brooke Six,  a local sixth form college to help the students write, rehearse and perform a poetry show and also at my daughter's primary school to tell ghost stories at their sleepover and work with the children on writing poetry.

I was invited to meet the DCSF Early Years people along with people involved with the National Year of Reading. They suggested ways in which I could support the NYR and the new Talk project they're launching. I repeated what is fast becoming my mantra: why can't the government be as committed to the reading of books as it is to the teaching of reading? Or, put another way: why is learning how to read compulsory but reading books optional? Is this a political, cultural or educational matter - or all three? I also joined in a big meeting at the DCMS, chaired by Andrew Motion, on the 'literature offer' element for what will be the five hours a week of cultural entitlement in schools. Perhaps this is how the reading of books will sneak back on to the curriculum.

I've popped up on Channel 5's 'The Wright Stuff' talking to people who phone-in with questions about their children's reading, I've written some more poems - I think a new book is gestating - and I've been to production meetings with a new picture book I'm doing with Joel Stewart and the Polka Theatre for my version of 'Pinocchio' coming on in November for their Christmas run.

The books for the Roald Dahl Funny Prize are piled up in my office - judgement day is September 1, award ceremony November 13.  That's my holiday reading sorted. The A-Z of poetry tour is rolling on (Edinburgh at the end of August). The Poetry Friendly Classroom page on Booktrust's Children's Laureate pages is there for anyone reading this to contribute to and my longstanding pipe-dream of an interactive schools' poetry YouTube-type site is still possible...





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