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Leading and award-winning UK authors, including Michael Rosen, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, Tanya Landman and Sita Brahmachari, are amongst those who have recorded events for the Stratford Literary Festival in a project called Authors for Schools designed to inspire children being home-schooled during lockdown.

The Authors for Schools Project, made possible by donations to a match-funded initiative with the LocalGiving Community Match Challenge, will include online events with eight writers for young people of all ages, plus links to resources and activity ideas to help them stay engaged with the authors’ books. The Festival will also be providing local schools with copies of books by the featured authors for their libraries.

Former Children’s Laureate Michael Rosen, recently recovered from Covid, will share his book Barking for Bagels, and CILIP Carnegie Medal winner Tanya Landman will explore storytelling with her latest book, a traditional tale called The Song of the Nightingale. Professor of Shakespeare Studies and author of This is Shakespeare, Emma Smith, will help GCSE and A Level students of English through themes in the Bard’s texts, and acclaimed writer Tony Bradman will bring the story of Macbeth to life for younger readers.

Chitra Soundar, the internationally published author of over 50 books for children, opens up the world of Indian folktales with her book Sona Sharma: Very Best Big Sister. Winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, Sita Brahmachari, will consider the themes of belonging, community, and migration addressed in her book When Secrets Set Sail.

Screenwriter and novelist, Frank Cottrell-Boyce, brings hilarity to the mix with Cosmic and the Runaway Robot, and Brilliant Book Award winner, Christopher Edge, who specialises in teaching children to write creatively, will talk about The Longest Night of Charlie Noon shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal.

‘Lockdown and school closures mean that many children have experienced a worrying gap in their education at a critical point in their lives,’ says Festival Director Annie Ashworth. ‘Not least and perhaps most importantly, they have missed out on the benefits of reading and the life-long benefits in terms of literacy, life-skills and well-being.

‘They will also be missing out on the excitement and stimulation of having authors visiting their schools to talk about their writing. Authors for Schools will help fill this important gap with a series of events for primary and secondary schools throughout our region. The events can be downloaded in school or at home for children and young people to enjoy. They’ll not only reignite interest in keen readers but, because they feature real authors, will help to engage reluctant readers.’

Says Sita Brahmachari: ‘It’s vital for learning and wellbeing that children’s creative powers are stimulated during this time of lockdown. It’s heart-warming to think that children at home will have access to author talks through Authors for Schools. The thought of children receiving the talks at home made me happy because of all the creative activities that could be stimulated by my virtual visit.’

The Stratford Literary Festival is a charity that stages events during two festivals a year, and brings the benefits of books to schools, the community and prisons. Because of ongoing Covid restrictions, its Spring Festival will run a reduced programme online, or live if permitted, from 8th to 16th May in a format in line with Government Covid-19 guidelines. The Festival will hold a longer festival between 9th and 14th November.

Key Facts*:
• Children and young people who are the most engaged with literacy have better mental wellbeing
• One in 11 disadvantaged children doesn’t have a single book at home
• Children and young people’s daily reading levels are at their lowest ever recorded
• Young people are less able to progress in other subjects if they don’t develop sufficient reading skills by the middle of primary school
• Children with reading difficulties are at greater risk of developing mental health problems later in life
• The estimated yearly cost of functional illiteracy to the UK economy is £37 billion
• During Covid-19 lockdowns, some children will have lost access to books for months and, with on-going contact restrictions, may not be able to use school libraries for the foreseeable future.
(*Statistics from The Reading Agency Surveys, World Literacy Foundation and National Literacy Trust Annual Literacy Survey 2019)

Photo: Michael Rosen is amongst the authors taking part in Stratford Literary Festival’s Authors for Schools Project.