Happy ending to tale of young authors
Holloway boys' school, in Islington, motivated pupils by publishing and using as classroom texts the books they wrote during literacy hours.
The boys, all Year 7 pupils, took part in classes paid for with a Pounds 12,000 grant from the borough's literacy project.
Deirdre Murphy, Holloway's special needs co-ordinator, says: "It's always harder to spark literacy enthusiasm in boys and we'd had real problems trying to enhance a general reading culture in a boys' school. This was an experiment, but judging by the number of times I've heard the boys refer to themselves as 'proper authors', it's been a great success."
"I really respect other authors now I know how hard it is to write a book, " says 12-year-old Duncan Makoni. "I never liked story books, I only looked at things like science books. And I never picked up a book if it didn't have a nice cover. Now I'm always reading because I want to get ideas for my next book."
Duncan and six others wrote Friends and Rejection, a story about boys in violent racist gangs who become friends after seeing the error of their ways when they nearly cause a tragedy.
The intensive literacy-hour classes were led by a team of three - an English teacher, Ms Murphy and a specialist language support teacher. Tasks were set to encourage critical awareness, vocabulary development and transcription skills.
Ms Murphy says: "The boys were a very mixed group. Some had English as a second language, others had special needs, while others already had high reading levels.
"We concentrated a lot on reading aloud. At the beginning there were a few giggles when someone struggled and they had the odd argument over ideas, but all the boys quickly developed this wonderful support for one another."
Kadir Beyerloglu, 12, says working on Friends and Rejection has taught him a lesson "in maturity, teamwork and respecting others' opinions". He says: "We stick together now. Wherever we go we go together. We help each other and we play together."
Kadir's friend, Jaseem Ahmed, says: "Each person wrote a chapter and then we corrected each other's work. We could have been nasty but we weren't because we knew how hard it was to write our own bits. We mostly worked together because we all wanted this to be a really good book."
Fiston Kikula's book, Nation of Domination, tells of a schoolboy football team "where everyone is a different colour" which rises from nowhere to win the FA Cup. Fiston, who is bilingual, admits he found writing difficult and would have given up if it were not for the motivation of being published.
Headteacher Dr John Hudson is "incredibly proud" of the boys. He says: "Not only have we seen outstanding academic work, but the themes of racism in both the books are so relevant in a multi-racial school like ours. Having the texts published was a leap of faith, but if we can we'd like to sell the books. I'd have no worries sharing this work with other children. I'm amazed how sophisticated it is."