In Ireland – and, I’m sure, many other places around the world – if you’re in the business of making children’s books, then schools represent an important part of your market. Obviously, this is not just because it’s where the kids are learning to read, but also because it’s where a large proportion of kids will have their first (and sometimes their only) experience of books.
This relationship that children’s authors have with schools is generally one that is mutually beneficial, but it can have its downsides too.
I received two pieces of news recently, one good, one bad, which serve as examples of the quirks of being involved with the education system:
I’ve just learned that ‘The Goblin of Tara’ is to be translated into Irish. An tAisaonad have bought the rights for Northern Ireland, for the purposes of teaching Irish. Ironically, they bought the rights for this retelling of an Irish legend from Barrington Stoke – a Scottish publisher. In the great scheme of things, it’s a tiny deal, as it’s a very short print run, solely for the Northern Irish market. But it’s the first time I’ve been translated into Irish, and it’s a nice one to have under my belt.
On a more negative note, I was in a secondary school in Belfast recently, and there was this young lad who was mouthing off a bit in one of my sessions – a common enough occurence – but he was actually familiar with some of my work, including the Mad Grandad books. Having satisfied himself that I was indeed the author of these books, he then told me that, when he was in primary school, a teacher had made him write out one of the Mad Grandad books as punishment for misbehaving.
It’s bad enough that writing itself is used as a form of punishment, ensuring that it will be regarded as such by a few lucky souls for the rest of their lives. But imagine that something written for entertainment and, hopefully, to encourage young kids to read, has been used to punish them. It makes you wonder about some of the people teaching our kids, and what’s going through their heads. I can’t think of a more effective way of killing any enthusiasm for reading (and reading my books in particular).
Thanks for that, whoever you are. Much appreciated.
And finally, for anyone who’s interested, here’s a link to an online interview I did for Hibernia College for their Literacy Week, for all those student teachers who are only taking their first plunge into the system. You’ll have to excuse the chest cold that I’d been trying to shake for a couple of weeks, and the angle is such that it was almost filmed in profile, which looks a bit odd, but hopefully some of you will find it interesting. Thanks to Hibernia for hosting the interview.