14:37, Tuesday, 13th November 2018

Pupils from Outwood Academy Foxhills, St Hugh’s Communication and Interaction Specialist College and Winterton Community Academy were visited recently by award-winning author Keith Gray to encourage budding writers.

The visit formed part of the 20th anniversary Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour.

Keith was born nearby in Grimsby and when he was younger was labelled ‘a reluctant reader’, struggling with lessons. However, he discovered a love of reading and has since published books for children and young adults, including Ostrich Boys, which was recently adapted for the stage.

During his presentation Keith shared top tips to encourage budding writers and entertained the pupils with stories from his time living locally, including a stint as the Pleasure Island mascot and Billy Bob the Bear, leading Scunthorpe United out at home games.

Speaking passionately about reading, Keith described books as ‘for life, not just for homework’ and an ‘incredible piece of technology’ with the power to transport the reader to a different school, town – even planet.

Recently it was revealed that primary schools in North Lincolnshire are first in the country for the rate of improvement in reading, writing and maths between 2016 and 2018.

A love of books is encouraged from an early age with the North Lincolnshire Imagination Library scheme delivering an incredible 446,000 books to children aged under five since the launch of the programme in 2013.

Cllr David Rose, cabinet member for Children, Families, Learning and Leisure, said:

“We are passionate about improving the levels of literacy for all children and families in North Lincolnshire. Ensuring children and young people get the best start in life in a priority for us and we have lots of initiatives in place to help with this. Our Imagination Library is the world’s most successful, which is a huge achievement. We also have a variety of other schemes including the firefighter reading scheme and Words Count.

“It is great that pupils from three schools in North Lincolnshire were able to hear from Keith Gray on his visit to North Lincolnshire about his experience and how he discovered his love of reading.”

Cathy Walsh, Resource Centre Manager at Outwood Academy Foxhills, said:

“We have been very lucky to have had Keith with us. The feedback from the students has been excellent. They have taken away lots to think about to help them with their resilience and story building. He also connected with some reluctant readers who have since been into the library asking for Keith’s novels, which is brilliant.”

Lorna Scott, Teacher at St Hugh’s Communication and Interaction Specialist College, said:

“The Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour with Keith Gray visited a year 9 class at St.Hugh’s school.  During the event, Keith Gray showed the class his own books and explained how he started to write.  He emphasised what makes reading important and help the class to write fun and engaging story openers.

“Keith engaged all of our students and really opened up their imaginations.  One of our reluctant writers wanted to write their own book and others wanted to advance their writing skills further.  Keith opened up lots of discussions amongst the students.

“By the end of the event, and after several discussions it was clear that the students had very specific genres that they enjoyed the most and this has helped to shape their next steps in learning.  The students spoke about how to become authors and how much they had enjoyed the event.  It really was a positive reading ethos that had blossomed by making it a reading event.”

Briony Bartlett, Teacher at Winterton Community Academy, said:

“Keith and his team worked with a group of our Year 11 pupils, who had been selected from a cross section of ability groups. He shared ways to create a character, build description and interest a reader at the start of a story.

“The structure and content of the session was highly engaging for all pupils, encouraging them to think about their language use in new ways. The activities were pitched so that all abilities could access them, whilst still enabling the high achievers to push themselves. Keith’s manner of delivery was entertaining as well as informative; pupils commented on the way that his down-to-earth and humorous attitude helped to make the session fun and memorable.

“Working with Keith inspired pupils to believe that they all had the ability to create unique and interesting fiction.”