Geography, art, science - books are for all subjects

1st May 2009 at 01:00
It's that time of year again - reserve your place at the Edinburgh International Book Festival

It's not just for English. That's the clarion call from organisers of Edinburgh's world-famous book festival, who want to make it known that they, too, are getting their heads round the demands of curricular change.

They have made a conscious decision to broaden the appeal of schools events to other subject areas. Books, they underline, are just as much for scientists, historians and artists as students of English.

"Literacy is cross-curricular," says Sara Grady, children and education programme director, who has followed closely the progress of A Curriculum for Excellence.

Like its advocates in education institutions, she insists that literacy must not be restricted to phonics and the study of classic novels in English lessons. Teachers of all types should be involved, and "it's really important to us that our programme relates to a wide variety of activity".

Each event in this year's programme includes tips for teachers under different subject headings. Geography is cited in a session with the author of the Katie Morag books, Mairi Hedderwick (P1-3; August 24, 10- 11am), with pupils encouraged to create their own fictional home, like Katie's Isle of Struay.

The Witching Hour with Elizabeth Laird (P7-S2; August 27, 10.30-11.30am) brings up history and citizenship. Her new novel is set in 1680s Scotland, and lessons could flag up parallels between witch hunts and contemporary forms of fundamentalism.

Cosmic Treasure Hunting (P5-S2; August 24, 11.30am-12.30pm) with Lucy Hawking involves science and maths: pupils might create a model of the solar system or imagine what type of alien would survive on a planet they had researched.

Ms Grady has identified this event as one of the most exciting in the programme, because the author's book, George's Secret Key to the Universe, was written with her father, renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, and this year's 40th anniversary of the first moon landing will rekindle fascination about space exploration.

Ms Grady's other highlights include Addressing the Bard, a project in which 12 poets wrote a response to their favourite Robert Burns poem. Liz Lochhead and Meg Bateman will lead the session and a copy of the new collection, published by The Scottish Poetry Library with LTS, will be sent to every Scottish secondary school by the Scottish Qualifications Authority.

She also points to a potentially fascinating event with authors of teenage fiction Kevin Brooks and Melvin Burgess, both of whom have had books banned by some schools and libraries. Burgess's award-winning novel Junk looked at teenage drug addiction, while his latest, Martyn Pig, is a modern-day take on Oliver Twist, set in an abusive care home.

Brooks's latest novel, Killing God, is about a girl who blames God for her father's disappearance.

Teachers are encouraged to start discussions about whether prohibition of books can ever be justified.

Organisers are keen for schools from beyond Edinburgh to attend the festival. Financial support is available and there are free tickets for teachers.

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