December's NYR theme is reading through drama and many theatres throughout the country are involved in the Year.
Among productions will be Alan Ayckbourn's new play, The Boy Who Fell into a Book, to be staged at the Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from December 3 to January 9. It tells of a boy who falls asleep in the middle of un-put-downable book and wakes to find himself in the thick of the action. His only way home is through more books.
Merton Education and Business Partnership and the Polka Children's Theatre in Wimbledon are running a project in which top children's authors have written the first paragraph of a number of stories to be completed by the pupils. The stories can be accessed on the EBP's website: www.mebp.org.uk.
The Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on an adaptation of C S Lewis's classic The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe first at Stratford from December 1 and then at the London Barbican Theatre from March. Details about performances and pre-show family events from the Stratford Box Office, tel 01789 295623.
The Young National Trust Theatre is taking bookings for its production The Wonder of the World -Pride, Poverty and the Power of the Written Word, which will be staged in National Trust Properties from April to October 1999. Set in 1855, it looks at social upheaval in the Victorian period and particularly at the importance of the written word.
Chichester Festival Theatre is running The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool is organising a range of activities, including Write Now '98, a festival of new short plays by young people.
Many other theatres are also involved in the promotion of NYR so it is worth getting on to your local theatre.
A database of theatre in education groups and performances can be found in the TES website: www.tes.co.uk THEMATIC INDEXES
Nottinghamshire Education Library Service has produced new, enlarged editions of their two very popular thematic lists of picture books and children's books plus two new lists of teenage fiction and adult fiction. Designed to help teachers and librarians retrieve titles linked to specific themes, either to support topic work or the wider reading demands of the national curriculum, they are priced at Pounds 8 each (including p p) and available from: The Education Library Service, County Library, Glaisdale Parkway, Nottingham NG8 4GP. Tel: 0115 985 4200.
ACTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES
Among a multitude of activities for families (teachers might also find them useful) included in "Encouraging Young Readers", a book from Reading is Fundamental UK, is "winter picnic". Take your picnic basket out of storage and pack a lunch or snack together with a few books to read aloud together. Spread a blanket and "the walls around you will disappear".
Also suggested are variations on the traditional Advent calendar (families who celebrate longer festivals, such as Hanukkah or Diwali, can instead count the nights during the festival), which encourage children to think up a word or phrase a day associated with the festival. Published by Scholastic at Pounds 4.99, it is available from most large bookshops. Reading is Fundamental UK is a non-profit organisation that aims to inspire children to read.
FREE BOOKS FOR BABIES
Sainsbury's has announced a Pounds 6 million Bookstart project to give away at least a million books over two years from its launch in January 1999. Organised by the Book Trust, local schemes will be set up across the UK, and parents or carers attending their babies' nine-month health check will begiven a Bookstart bag containing a free book and information about how to get the most pleasure out of sharing books.
The scheme follows the successful Bookstart project begun six years ago with 300 families in Birmingham. Clear advantages in their literacy and numeracy levels were seen by the time they entered primary school.
Nestle Smarties Book Prize
The winner of the UK's biggest children's book prize will be announced on Monday.
On the short list in the five and under category are: "Secret in the Mist" by Margaret Nash (Levinson); "Come on Daisy!" by Jane Simmons (Orchard); "Cowboy Baby" by Sue Heap (Walker). In the six to eight category: "The Green Ship" by Quentin Blake (Jonathan Cape); "The Runner" by Keith Gray (Mammoth); "The Last Gold Diggers" by Harry Horse (Puffin). In the nine to 11 category: "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" by J K Rowling (Bloomsbury); "The Crowstarver" by Dick King-Smith (Doubleday) and "Aquila" by Andrew Norriss (Puffin).