Category archives: looked-after children and young people

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Open training courses

Most of my training is designed for practitioners in specific local authorities or other organisations, but I have a few open courses coming up with places still available. (My March courses at Heath Books are now fully booked, with waiting lists.) Follow the links for details and booking information.

Working with looked-after children
The Network and Anne Harding Training – Woking – 26 March 2012

Supporting reading through the primary library
Heath Educational Books – Sutton – 24 May 2012

Making the most of your library
National Centre for Language and Literacy – Reading – 13 June 2012

Supporting children with special educational needs
Creating Capacity – London – 6 July 2012

I am also delivering a workshop on supporting children with special
educational needs in school and public libraries on 9 June 2012 in
Windsor as part of the Lighting the Future conference.

The photo is of a workshop at Bishop’s Stortford College.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Book and reading events at the Imagine Festival

What a great – and illuminating – time I had at the Imagine Festival. I’ve already blogged about the launch of the Young Minds report. There were two other events with a looked-after children theme, both excellent. ‘Lyrical Letterboxes’ was the brainchild of Letterbox Club. Jackie Kay and Roger McGough captivated everyone with accounts of the reading they loved as children, and with superbly participative renditions of their poems. Anne of Green Gables was Kay’s favourite book. She totally identified with Anne, who was adopted, like her, and was just as much of a chatterbox. She even named her son after Anne’s father. Kay also adored Greyfriars Bobby, about, as she put it, ‘the most loyal dog in history’. (This was one of my absolutely favourite reads too. I still have the copy my dad gave me.) McGough’s literary hero was Alf Tupper in the Rover comic. Despite having no home and no money for proper clothes or shoes, Alf ran for England and won. McGough’s childhood ambition, he told us, was to grow up to be a fictitious comic book character. This has to be the most interesting ambition I have ever encountered. Letterbox Club had a big bag of books, one for each Club member in the audience. A lovely touch.

‘From Pip to Potter’ on Sunday was a fascinating panel discussion organised by Letterbox Club and the Reader Organisation, which I am proud to be a group facilitator for. It was about literary characters with a care background – what a lot there are, not least Superman – and how they, and indeed reading itself, can inspire children in care. Lemn Sissay told us looked-after children (LAC) are celebrated in art, but are not, and should be, in real life. He and poet Caroline Bird spoke about their Superhero poetry workshops, which have provided LAC with new and important means of expression. We heard about the fantastic differences the Letterbox Club makes to the lives of children in care, and the excellent support the Reader project with LAC is giving, again through the medium of books. All these schemes give children and young people more ways to think about themselves and their situations, and also to understand other people better: books as mirrors or windows or both. The speakers talked about how helpful it is for looked-after children to discover through  reading that they are not the only ones with problems. Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is amazing for this, as is Jacqueline Wilson’s Worry Website. Questions from the floor raised important points, including the reasons for LAC’s often low reading levels and the need for training for carers, something very dear to my heart. An excellent event.

For anyone who is interested, you can find all my blog posts about looked-after children here, including several about Letterbox.

I was also lucky enough to attend the Red House Children’s Book Award ceremony on Saturday. Queen Elizabeth Hall was packed with hundreds of excited children. The very best thing about the award is that it is judged solely by children, and it was delightful that the winners were announced by children. The afternoon was a wonderful celebration of books and reading, with lots of brilliant authors, this year’s shortlisted ones, and previous title-holders like Michael Morpurgo and Malorie Blackman too. All were great. I especially enjoyed Mick Inkpen’s tale about one particular critical reaction to Blue Balloon, a book I love and use time and time again in activities with children. ‘It’s not your best, is it?’, said his seven year-old son. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was the worthy overall award winner. I took the photo before the event, as children queued to add their suggestions for good reads to the reading tree set up in Hall foyer.

There are still lots of Festival events to come, though unfortunately my involvement is at an end.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

I’m not like Tracy Beaker

Monday saw the publication of an important report by Young Minds. Improving the health of looked after young people is full of information about looked-after young people’s perceptions about their care, support services and school, and about their feelings. The differences between how young people act and how they feel are stark. Outward displays of strength and confidence are often masks for inner fears, insecurity and stress. Around 60% of looked-after young people have some level of mental health problem.

The report contains valuable recommendations. In view of the course I am co-running next month on how arts and cultural organisations can support looked-after children and young people, I was especially interested in the recommendation that art, play, drama and music should be used as methods for communication and improving emotional well-being.

I attended the report’s launch on Monday evening. ‘I’m not like Tracy Beaker’ combined a plea for society to take more care about looked-after young people with a celebration of their resilience and creativity. Speakers from Young Minds, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England and Flourish, a national programme to promote artwork by young people with experience of being in care, spoke passionately about the needs of looked-after young people, and about how creative activities can make them feel stronger and more in control of their lives. We heard about the powerful impact of involvement in poetry workshops and the annual Flourish exhibition. Poet Lemn Sissay, himself brought up in the care system, declared that looked-after young people are super-heroes, whom we should see not as victims, but in terms of their fantastic potential.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Quentin Blake – As large as life

I blogged a few weeks ago about an exhibition of Quentin Blake’s paintings for hospitals and other health organisations. It is now in London, at the Foundling Museum. I loved it. This is just one of his fabulous Planet Zog pictures for a children’s hospital. I also particularly liked his paintings of ancient circus artists, created with elderly mental health patients in mind. They are delightfully funny, heart-warming and sympathetic. His artwork for an eating disorder clinic is also full of empathy and humour. There is a reading corner decorated with wallpaper designed by Blake (as is the wonderful café). The day I visited lots of children and adults were busy there producing art and stories inspired by the exhibition. Some great looking family events accompany the exhibition. Anyone with an iPad can download a free app with more about Blake’s work.

The Foundling Museum is well worth exploring. It gives the history of the Foundling Hospital, the first home for abandoned children. Some of the stories are truly tragic. The museum does lots of impressive work with today’s looked-after children and young people.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Imagine Festival

There’s a great festival of literature, music, comedy and performance for children at the Southbank Centre in London from 12-26 February.

Three events have a looked-after children theme, something very close to my heart, so I’m delighted to have tickets for all of them:

Other book-related events that caught my eye are performances of The Incredible Book-Eating Boy and Private Peaceful, plus a celebration of the Roald Dahl Funny Prize. And there are loads of authors appearing, among them Francesca Simon, Morris Gleitzman, Andy Stanton, Cressida Cowell, Jeremy Strong and Jacqueline Wilson.