Everything you need to know, and more

1st February 2008 at 00:00
A virtual writer in residence, authors in deprived areas, a week-long tour by children's laureate Michael Rosen and a new children's book festival are all part of the Scottish Book Trust's relaunch, writes Gillian Macdonald.

Where do you go if you want an author to visit your school? What website do you look up if you need information on Scottish books? Where can your school sign up to judge the children's book awards? Until now it has all been a bit confusing, with answers ranging from the Scottish Arts Council to BRAW (Books for Reading and Writing).

As of this week, it's very simple, following the relaunch of the Scottish Book Trust - which is the answer to all these questions.

With the relaunch comes a host of fresh innovations, such as the new Scottish Book Trust Festival for Children's Literature on March 1-7. Described as "adventures in Scottish books for 0-14 year olds", it looks very like the children's programme at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, but with a difference.

"The focus is different," says Anna Gibbons, the children's programme manager at the book trust, "because it's all Scottish; it's more tied in to the school year and it gives teachers time to introduce children to the books before going along.

"It also focuses on deprived areas, which is part of our ethos to help kids participate who don't have books at home," she explains.

The festival is free, events take part in local libraries and transport is provided, thanks to funding from the SAC, the Russell Trust, which invests in children and young people, and the HBOS Foundation.

"It is," says Ms Gibbons, "part of the SBT's overall strategy to reach those kids. It has always been part of what we do."

The festival presents the very best of children's authors and illustrators, with all the winners of last year's Scottish Children's Book Awards taking part - Matthew Fitt (author of Katie's Moose), Alex Nye (Chill) and Cathy Cassidy (Scarlett) - and a host of famours names, from Nicola Morgan and Theresa Breslin to Mairi Hedderwick and Ross Collins.

March 1 will be a family day, where children can meet Julia Donaldson, best known for The Gruffalo, and hear storyteller Judy Paterson and illustrator Sally Collins explain how they put a book together. The rest of the week will offer 19 free events in locations ranging from Wester Hailes library to Edinburgh Zoo and the National Museum.

Programmes have been sent to schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians, Falkirk, Fife and the Borders. Those that apply will receive five free copies of the book for the session they are attending, so that children can familiarise themselves with it in advance.

Also helping children in deprived areas will be a major investment in five weeks of residencies by five top authors and illustrators. They will be based at Forthview Primary in Pilton, Clovenstone Primary in Wester Hailes, Fort Primary in Leith, Castleview Primary in Craigmillar and Abbeyhill Primary.

On the wider national front, schools throughout the country have been sent a leaflet with the new SBT children's education programme, which will run throughout the year.

Michael Rosen (pictured left), the children's laureate, will come to Scotland for a week-long tour in May and he has written a new poem for the Scottish Book Trust website, which went up on Wednesday. Children have a chance to win class tickets to see Rosen, by entering the SBT's new poetry competition. There will be a further five or six tours by different UK authors during the year.

A key innovation for teenagers is a new "literary alternative to Bebo or MySpace" - a virtual writer in residence. Keith Gray, (pictured right) author of The Fearful, resides on the website, where he has just put up a specially written story.

Five other authors for this age group will also be commissioned to write stories, so a new one can go up every couple of months. These can be emailed direct to inboxes for schools, libraries and teenagers who want them.

The SBT is "recruiting" an advocate in every secondary school library in Scotland, Ms Gibbons says, who can email the link to teenagers and they can forward it to their friends.

"The librarians are really keen on that," she says, "and will get it to teachers."

Keith Gray, who started out as a reluctant reader, will also provide hints and tips for teenagers' own creative writing, and a film of his own inspiration, in bitesize clips, can be downloaded in the Spring. Teenagers will have a chance to demonstrate their own writing skills in a short story competition and the best will be published on the website in September.

"The virtual writer in residence is a genuinely innovative and exciting new project," he says.

"Innovative because of the unique way young people will be given access to both modern literature and their own storytelling abilities. And exciting because this kind of project has never been done before."


Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today