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Notts Author Darren Simpson is Inspiring Children to Love Reading

19 November 19 interview: Kate Hewitt

We had a natter with him about his new project with the National Literacy Trust...

Local author Darren Simpson, the author of Scavengers (Usborne Books), is working with the National Literacy Trust as part of its Read on Nottingham scheme. They are in the process of a collaborative project that aims to keep children’s interest in reading active, as they move from their final months in primary school to the start of secondary school.

On average, children who either start or continue to read for pleasure then go on to have a reading age several years above their age. In relation to this, the project is tackling is the correlation between children who read for enjoyment and the ability of said children’s reading and writing skills. Two schools have already taken place in the scheme – The Farnborough Academy and The Nottingham Emmanuel School.

Year Six children from Clifton read a chapter of Scavengers together in their primary school. Then, all Year Seven pupils from both schools were given a free copy of the book and their new tutor groups read the rest of the book together. Darren Simpson visited The Farnborough Academy and The Nottingham Emmanuel School to engage pupils further in the benefits of reading and writing. Darren hosted an assembly, signed books and launched a creative writing competition, exclusive to the pupils taking part in the programme, in which they can win up to £30 worth of book tokens.

We chatted to him about this project, and the effect he hopes it will have on turning those youths into bookworms…

This project aims to fill the gap between Year Six and Year Seven. How has it been doing this?
There have been 407 copies donated so far by Usborne Books and Read On – what we want to do to help fill this gap is to give a copy out to the children. This to me was an important factor, so these young people were able to take ownership of a book and be able to read it at their own pace. We have also been able to help create continuity, through the secondary school tutors reading the rest of the same book when the pupils went into their new schools.

Have you been into the schools?
I have attended an assembly for Year Sevens, and I also wanted to go and talk to them to express how someone local can and has written a book. I have enjoyed sitting down and reading books to them – both mine but also any books that could give them confidence in their literary ability. I like to take a humorous approach when talking to the kids. Plus, I also always make time for questions at the end.

Have any of the questions stood out to you so far?
I’ve had a lot of questions regarding specific characters in my book – the one that seems to capture interest is the dog with the bad leg. I also have been asked questions about the publishing process and about my experiences in the literary industry.

I’m happy to be playing a part in hopefully helping these kids become more confident and interested in their literacy skills

What influenced you in terms of the atmosphere of your book Scavengers?
The setting was influenced from Calverton Recycling Centre. The book itself is classed as for young YA audience, although when I started to write the book it was intended to be a coming of age story for an adult audience. I was interested in this idea of taking the familiar and turning that on its head. In my book there are some gruesome moments, and I think that is good for a book for young people without it being for small children. The 10 and 11-year olds reading this are able to feel grown-up, yet they are exploring their desire to know more about the world in an organised and safe environment.

My older son is a few years older than the children in the project, but I read the book to him and he really enjoyed it. He found the slightly more gruesome parts exciting, as a lot of the school children did and will.  

Are you pleased with the way the project is going?
I’m happy to be playing a part in hopefully helping these kids become more confident and interested in their literacy skills. The drop off of reading for enjoyment that can happen in secondary school affects pupils’ exam results and their lives after school. I am pleased to be involved in a project that can help young people do better in school and have more options afterwards.

Read On Nottingham is a campaign that the National Literacy Trust lead in partnership with Small Steps Big Changes and the National Lottery Community Fund. It works at a community level to bring children and families a love of reading and improve their life chances.

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