Here's our team outside gorgeous Liverpool Central Library: me, Annie Smith from Read For Good, and Jenny Holder from Liverpool Learning Partnership, whose partnership made the whole thing possible! And it's not over! This FRIDAY at 2pm, people across Liverpool are going to Drop Everything And Read!
Liverpool pride themselves on being a City of Readers, and there's nothing more powerful for kids to see than grownups reading, too.
During my visit, I went with Jenny and Annie to a 'Teachers as Readers' meeting, an project set up by the UK Literary Association's Teresa Cremin. The idea is that a lot of teachers would love to share from the huge range of diverse picture books out there, but they're so busy that they often fall back on only using books from their own childhood, or books by the big-name celebs. Meetings are springing up all over the UK, and tables filling with picture books for teachers to look through and discuss. At the end of this meeting, I talked a little bit about my books (Dinosaur Firefighters and The New Neighbours) and showed them how to draw a Sea Monkey.
I think drawing's so important to getting certain kids interested in books. It's like cooking: when someone's learned how to cook, they can take a much more educated interest in what they're eating at a restaurant. The same with books, if kids get excited about making them, they learn what goes into making books, and they can much more knowledgeably enjoy and judge the books they're reading. But if you hand children a piece of paper and tell them to 'write a story', a lot of kids (and adults!) will freeze up, or be stuck for ideas. If you lead them through drawing a character, giving it a name, favourite foods, deciding where it lives, stories will come pouring out of them as their character comes alive and looks back from the page at them. (I have a bunch of free how-to-draw guides on my website for each book if any teachers want to use them.)
I also talked a bit about the Pictures Mean Business campaign, and how kids gain another potential hero when teachers focus on the illustrators of books, and analyse the pictures as well as talking about the books' writers and words.
And I got to spend a day in Liverpool! During my last Readathon visit, I only ever had free time when the museums were closed, so this time I vowed to come early and have a good run around. Liverpool is incredible, with amazing architecture and so many world-class museums. Here was one of my stops, the Tate Liverpool. Check out the colourful floor by Scottish artist Jim Lambie!
In front of the Tate, the Liverpool Mountain by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone made for an excellent, if top-heavy fascinator. And I popped into the Museum of Liverpool to check out its rather astonishing architecture:
My favourite stop was the Walker Gallery, which has an absolutely jaw-dropping collection of art, everything from one of the best medieval tapestries I've ever seen, to major Pre-Raphaelite works, to modern canvases and sculpture. Incredible, and I absolutely need to go back there. I took a bunch of photos to use for the Thursday #PortraitChallenge over at @StudioTeaBreak on Twitter. (Teachers, if you're looking for drawing prompts for your class, we have daily challenges and you and your classes are free to jump in and take part!)
One of the absolute best parts of my trip was going to stay with local author Frank Cottrell-Boyce, his wife Denise, and their family. I only really knew them from quick conversations at book festivals, so it was great getting to have much longer chats. In the morning, Frank took me for a good long walk along the beach, where we could see the dockyard cranes, the Anthony Gormley statues sticking out of the waves, and huge freighter ships passing by.
The beach was cool, too - all the pieces of Liverpool's industrial history, lots of bricks of all sorts. Here's an excellent sea biscuit:
Okay, enough sightseeing - back to the Liverpool Readathon! My first two events in the morning took place at Liverpool Central Library, which is an incredible combination of old and new architecture:
I didn't get a chance to take photos, so I'll do a tour of the schools' tweets about the events! Here's one from my event with the younger primary schoolchildren, where I talked about The New Neighbours, drew bunny characters, and they helped me design an animal tower block.
And here are a few from my event with the older primary children, where I read a bit of The Legend of Kevin by Philip Reeve and me, showed them some of my illustrations, and led them in drawing Sea Monkeys (who make a memorable appearance in the book). They also led me in making up a funny story of our own, involving the plunge of a Sea Monkey and pigeon from Big Ben onto the Queen and her cavalcade.
One of the schools had won a visit from me directly to their school, so I rode back on the bus to St Clare's Primary. And they serenaded me the whole way (Baby Shark, Molly Malone), which was a memorable experience! Ha ha, my face in this first photo:
Speaking of the Baby Shark song, I was pleased to see one of the classes had used one of my activity sheets for There's a Shark in the Bath:
And some tweets from the visit:
Big thanks to Liverpool Central Library and the staff of St Clare's for hosting me, and to my amazing team of Jenny and Annie, for organising everything, and making it run so smoothly and be so much fun! This week they're bringing author Phil Earle to Liverpool for the Readathon, and I know that will be amazing.
If you'd like to find out more about how you can help Read For Good and getting books and storytellers to children in hospital, here's a great little video. I picked this charity as my own charity to support because I can really see where the money goes, right into those mobile bookshelves and storytellers, for kids who will really appreciate them. Find out more about Read For Good on their website. And if you want to run a Readathon in your school and get kids motivated to read, get in touch with them!