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Pupils' newspaper helps to boost prisoner morale

A NEWSPAPER produced by Hertfordshire primary pupils helped lift the spirits of a political prisoner in Egypt.

The paper, which includes interviews with heart transplant surgeons and former Commons' Speaker Betty Boothroyd, is now read in 10 countries.

Reporters for the Thriplow Times have covered issues ranging from homelessness to Harry Potter. The paper also includes fiction, recipes, letters and jokes from the 14 members of the Thriplow CofE primary's writing club.

Parent Susan van de Ven set up the writing club after giving a talk about her work as a freelance editor for Cambridge University Press.

Dr van de Ven sends a copy of the paper to Saad Eddin Ibrahim, her former university tutor in Egypt. He sent a letter to the children while in jail as a political prisoner.

The paper also goes to relatives and friends of the school in the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Lebanon, Malawi, Australia, New Zealand and the USA.

She said: "The children were amazed that it can take a year or two to publish a book. I hated to make it seem so hard so the writing club was really a way for them to publish their own work right away within their own school and community."

Dr van de Ven helps to set up interviews and accompanies the reporters, aged seven to 11. She said: "They have to do the footwork. They are expected to shake hands and introduce themselves, and they use a dictaphone and transcribe the interview.

"I am there to make sure the dictaphone is working and that they don't lose pieces of paper."

The club's editorial policy is to include pretty much everything the children write as long as it does not hurt anyone's feelings.

Dr van de Ven said: "I'm really proud of the children, I think they have done a super job."

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