Two years ago I joined forces with Christine Newman, the librarian at Cranbrook School, and together we worked with a third school in the town of Angley to produce a version of the Big Read. The event featured favourite books and reading recommendations from pupils in Reception through to Year 13. Supported by the three headteachers, we found enough money to get the results published and every pupil in each school received a copy.
Such was the response that we decided to embark on a second project.
This time a grant was secured from Awards for All, a National Lottery grants scheme, and we pledged to create The Cranbrook Big Write.
Each school undertook activities to promote writing for pleasure. These included taking tips from authors (Nigel Hinton and Anthony Horowitz became involved); going out of the classroom to find inspiration; having special Big Writing time; using music, painting and drama to explore ideas - and ultimately, in a busy curriculum, finding time to give status to creative writing.
We spent a month reading and creating a shortlist, and eventually decided on a selection to represent each year group, again from Reception to Year 13. Our grant enabled us to expand to a 72-page book, which was launched in the town library at a morning of writing events. Authors David and Ronda Armitage, Alan Gibbons, and John Rice all gave workshops and Heather O'Neill, a book artist, helped groups to make their own little books.
We collected 200 story openings and wrote them on tags, along with an email address. These were attached to helium balloons - with a request for the recipient to finish the story - and let off as the grand finale to the event. We got responses from as far afield as Belgium and Germany!
Plans to set up a website to include the book content, the story openings, any stories we get back and information about planning such a project, are under way. Meanwhile, "Have you read?" and "I've started writing a story"
are the two of the most frequent sentence openers.
Literacy Manager, Cranbrook CE Primary School, Kent