It’s a funny old world. You can work hard, sometimes not getting the results you hope for, yet occasionally good fortune simply lands in your lap.
That is how I felt after chatting with celebrated children’s author Nick Butterworth. Over the course of 30 minutes it became clear we share similar values and approach when it relates to children’s reading.
For me the interesting thing was how Nick and my paths crossed. I’m currently promoting a challenge in the Canterbury district where the class that is top or most improved for reading will win a story time session with the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, George Metcalf. The book that George will read is Trixie the Witch’s Cat by Nick Butterworth. A story about the challenge appeared on the home page of KentOnline (2.6 million unique browsers each month) and was spotted by Nick’s agent. That evening I found myself on the phone to Nick discussing some of our shared approach to literacy.
What we both agree on is that the role of parents and the family in making their child’s reading both enjoyable and successful is key. Particularly for boys, who too often do not engage with school, having a male role model regularly enthusing about reading and sharing time with their child, can make a world of difference to excite a boy about the value and importance of reading.
Nick’s take on signing up dads is great – when he volunteers to visit a school to read one of his books, he ‘expects’ the school to also arrange a session where he can speak with parents in the evening, with an emphasis on encouraging dads to also attend. It creates an opportunity to talk directly to the role models in the child’s home – and of course even parents less enthusiastic about such responsibilities will be keen to attend a session with an international children’s author – it is a wonderful way of using the power of celebrity to make a real difference to the next generation.
Parental involvement is at the heart of my charity’s reading scheme Buster’s Book Club. Parents are expected to read with their child every Wednesday night and sign off their Buster’s Book Club bookmark which is usually attached to the child’s school contact book. This follows through to the speedy data capture session after class registration on a Thursday and feeds through to the Reading Class of the Week being crowned every Friday based on improved reading figures.
Reading Class of the Week is just the first part of my charity’s Triple Challenge. Once a month my team look at the three reading stats we gather for each class and select a class in each of the 14 council areas who win tickets to leisure attractions such as Leeds Castle.
The third motivator asks all the children and families involved with Buster’s Book Club to collectively read more than a million minutes of reading – doing so allows the children’s to become members of my charity’s Reading Millionaire Club.
There is an interesting mix of factors coming into play that makes Buster’s Book Club work. At its heart is teamwork – the family team of parents spending time with their child to read; and then there is the class team with children encouraging and reminding classmates to read every Wednesday night.
Competition plays a big role with the initiative’s success and fuels children’s enthusiasm in encouraging even the most wayward of parent to spend time reading with their child. Another factor is that this delivers incremental behaviour change within the family. Of course we want, and the school want, the child to be supported with reading every night of the week, but as Buster’s Book Club makes Wednesday night the deal-breaker night, the evening when reading is ‘unavoidable’, the experience is that the wayward parent is often more receptive to this once a week expectation than more traditional demands from schools.
And an element of greed fuels this behaviour change, of course, as the monthly inter-school reading challenge between classes offers exciting leisure attraction vouchers as prizes, giving us a monthly spike in reading figures.
Nick Butterworth’s interest in our charity and its work will most probably see him read a story to a school that is top or most improved for reading through Buster’s Book Club once a year, following the pattern we enjoy with other celebrities including Phil Gallagher, who plays the role of Mister Maker on CBeebies TV. Nick has agreed to become a Literacy Ambassador for our charity and will contribute supportive statements for publications and press stories occasionally.
Teamwork is vital not just in the home or school when it comes to developing the reading, writing, speaking and listening skills of the next generation. That teamwork extends between our charity and your business.
If you want to be part of the KM Charity Team’s success story and help us work with south east schools to boost literacy skills and reading levels, why not come and sponsor an element of our work. You could fund us in a small way to work with a primary school close to your business or back us across the region having your brand promoted in hundreds of schools.
To have an informal chat about options to support Buster’s Book Club contact Simon Dolby on email@example.com or call 07989 164 752.
Nick Butterworth is a prolific author