In the summer months the BRIT School for Performing Arts puts a lot of emphasis on community work with Year 12 students. Last year we wanted to help develop literacy projects in primary schools and to excite children about stories. I asked a mixed-ability Year 12 group, some of whom were avid readers and some who apparently hardly read at all, to bring in their favourite children's books.
They talked to their parents - which was good in itself - and came back with books ranging from Beatrix Potter through Nigerian and Caribbean folk tales to Roald Dahl and Where the Wild Things Are. From these we produced a story about a bureaucratic manager who locks up stories in a box because he has no time for imagination. When he falls asleep all the stories come out; we referred to about 20 - 30 stories. Later he rediscovers imaginative works.
This production, called Mr Pickles Plays Guitar Where the Wild Things Are, toured 15 primary schools in South London and won a National Reading Campaign award. The project covered many curriculum areas, including literacy and drama. The rediscovery of early childhood books gave rise to all sort of discussions on what students had liked about these books and why. Some talked about why they had stopped reading: often because they were forced to read at school. In some cases, it gave something they loved back to them.
Stuart Worden, director of theatre, The BRIT School for Performing Arts, Croydon