In this guest blog Mark Barry explains how he’s been trying to engage all of Nottinghamshire’s schools in our project. Over to you, green wizard…
I’m Mark, a writer and project designer, and in the context of Dawn of the Unread, the school engagement worker. I live in Nottinghamshire and, with the exception of my University years, I have lived here all my life. I read prodigious amounts of books, bet on racehorses and follow Notts County Football Club, the oldest League club in the world.
My passion is reading and it has been an honour to be involved in this innovative literacy project. I have a long history of working with schools, particularly in the Inner City, an area of great ethnic diversity where over 400 separate religious and ethnic groups live. I’m also passionate about getting fourteen and fifteen year olds off of their PC games and back between the pages of a book, so the aims of this project bode closely with that of my own.
The competition from YouTube and consoles is intense and so initiatives like this are important in offering alternative means of communication and education. Hopefully the gaming element to Dawn of the Unread will be able to lure a few people to the written word and offer an equally exciting and rewarding experience. In terms of literacy, our end of level boss is a staid education system that thinks forcing kids to read Shakespeare is the answer. It is more complex than that and so hopefully our approach of creating ‘active’ readers who have to visit literary locations, create stories inspired by each comic, and answering questions as well as reading books will keep a few readers engaged and away from Bowser.
Empleo, the company I am involved with, are currently working on a Lottery-funded role modelling project called Brilliant Books with Seely School in Sherwood, demonstrating that a devoted interest in reading brings significant rewards in the future. It is heartening to see a wide range of ethnic groups attending and the range of books our hosts are introducing to the children – all of which we pay for – is astounding. Other schools are ready to work with us following the conclusion.
So far, for Dawn of the Unread, I have created a database of 70 Nottinghamshire schools and colleges – including e-mail addresses, postholder names and telephone numbers. I have also contacted each school by phone and we will be working with interested parties to guide young people through the App, which will greatly assist in aspects of Key Stage 4 in English, and, most importantly, make young people aware of Nottinghamshire’s enviable literary heritage. This has taken on new resonance since Nottingham’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature, of which, no surprise, James Walker is involved.
DOTU is an innovative, novel project and we need to get in front of the Heads of English as a first stage. This isn’t easy, as any school engagement worker will tell you; a teacher is absolutely snowed under with various tasks, both academic and administrative and time is of the essence. Therefore having a named contact is vital and would be my top tip to anyone thinking of pursuing a similar project, otherwise information just ends up in the educational sludge pile.
The schools with non-teaching external engagement workers, who have the time to liaise with initiatives like Dawn of The Unread, look the most promising so far. We have three months to drum up interest and complete the project and we shall keep going until it does as Dawn of the Unread is a ground-breaking project which deserves all-encompassing exposure. So please get in contact if you would like us to visit.
- The Eyes Have It (literacyblog.blogspot.co.uk)
- Guided Reading (literacyshedblog.com)
- How to Create Your Own Open Video Resources (thevirtualschool.wordpress.com)
- Comprehension Strategies For Adolescent Readers (gettingboystoread.com)
- Digital Storytelling At Community College (storycenter.org)
- Chris Leslie MP Brilliant Books (mybrilliantbooks.blogspot.co.uk)