On paper, it's such a great event

3rd August 2012 at 01:00
And in reality it's sure to be impressive, too. This year's Edinburgh Book Festival has something for everyone. Raymond Ross reports

With more events for children and young people than ever before, this year's Edinburgh International Book Festival (11-27 August) certainly lives up to its claim that "Education lies at the heart of everything we do".

This year, the EIBF will welcome more than 10,000 pupils and teachers from over 100 schools across Scotland to its tented village in Charlotte Square.

The largest festival of author and arts events for children in the world, this year's schools programme focuses on "participation, imagination and creation", with storytelling, author interviews and question-and-answer sessions along with creative workshops aimed at all year groups across primary and secondary - plus continuing professional development events for teachers, led by experts in the field of education.

The last day of the book festival - the RBS Gala Day - is given over entirely to primary schools for "fun and learning", featuring children's authors along with storytelling, illustration, jokes and magic.

Among those taking part will be the comedian and actor David Walliams, who will be talking about his new book Gangsta Granny, which features a 90- year-old granny who prefers a life of international crime to staying at home and sucking mints (ages 8-12).

Another feisty granny is also making her debut, courtesy of the renowned Scottish crime writer Val McDermid, whose first children's book is about a handbag-wielding granny who is a pirate, a heroine and a storyteller. Ms McDermid will introduce My Granny is a Pirate on 15 August (ages 2-5).

Also new to the children's programme is actor Mackenzie Crook, well known for his role Ragetti in Pirates of the Caribbean. But his earliest ambition was to be a cartoonist and graphic artist and he will demonstrate his skills as he brings to life characters from his first book, The Windvale Sprites on 19 August (ages 9-12).

Among the more established children's and young people's writers appearing in this year's packed programme are Jacqueline Wilson, Theresa Breslin, Julia Donaldson, Joan Lingard, Alexander McCall Smith and Michael Morpurgo. Meanwhile, the wee ones will no doubt clap the return of the popular singalong sessions Scots Rhymes, presented by Craigmillar Books for Babies.

Continuing professional development is central to the ethos of the EIBF schools programme, which opens this year with a session on Co-operative Learning for the 21st Century (15 August), led by the internationally renowned educationalist Chris Ward, who will focus on learning and teaching strategies that stress positive independence, individual accountability and social skills while promoting academic achievement.

The Guardian's children's book editor, Julia Eccleshare, will join leading children's authors Sara Grant and Debi Gliori to discuss how fiction can develop empathy, tolerance and understanding as a powerful tool for educating children about human rights (Amnesty International Event, 21 August), while Liz Niven from the Scottish Poetry Library will share popular and successful poetry projects from schools around Scotland, intended to inspire, refresh and make you "ready to rock with new poetry ideas" (22 August).

Of particular interest to those who may not be able to attend the book festival in person, the EIBF website includes audio recordings, videos and transcripts from previous book festival events and a bank of classroom ideas covering many areas of Curriculum for Excellence for use by teachers throughout the year.



Best-selling children's author and Vivian French (pictured), whose work includes the popular Tiara Club stories, is leading a series of events in this year's EIBF children's programme as a guest selector.

The author of more than 200 fiction, non-fiction and poetry books has been Children's Writer in Residence at the EIBF five times.

This year, with Aesop's Funky Fables (11 August), she will invite children to choose their favourite fable and give it their own spin, turning it into verse, song or pictures (ages 6-12), while on 13 August she will lead a game of story consequences, where the audience will suggest a starting point for a story that will then be continued and developed by three leading writers, Barry Hutchison, Steven Butler and Sally Gardner, each picking up where the other left off.

The following day there is a call to all budding singer-songwriters (ages 10-14), who will be invited to write a story in lyrics, with help from Ms French, which will then be set to music with melodic input from the band Zoey Van Goey (pictured above).

"I want to reach out to those who, for many reasons, find reading hard or alien," says Ms French. "If these children can only see themselves as authors . I believe they will feel empowered and go on to read with real passion.'

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