In November (6th-18th), Newcastle Libraries took part in the Northern Children’s Book Festival and their contribution to this annual centrepiece saw them host five nationally accomplished authors, who visited the region to entertain and inspire over 700 pupils from four local schools including Our Lady & St Annes, Hawthorn Primary, St Catherine’s Primary and Christ Church CE Primary School with another location being City Library.

Newcastle Libraries has a reputation for delivering innovative ways of encouraging young people to pick up books and enjoy the world of literature.

The Northern Children’s Book Festival has been running for 34-years and works across twelve local authorities in the North East providing them with invaluable opportunities to bring some of the UK’s finest authors to classrooms, libraries and other community venues.  These workshops, performances and shows engage and submerge the young audience into the wonderful world of books. The Festival also incorporates other creative practitioners in illustrators, poets and storytellers.

The Northern Children’s Book Festival operates as an independent charity and commands a number of impressive feats.  It is one of the longest running cultural festivals in the North East, the only children’s literature festival in the region and the only one in the UK which covers an entire region.

One of the Festival’s events for schools saw writing and performance duo Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore, better known in literary circles as ‘The Two Steves’ visited Christchurch CE Primary School in Central Newcastle.  The Two Steves performed to over 60 young people, aged between seven and eleven from Year 3-6. They read and reinacted parts for their highly acclaimed iHero Legend books.

Writer Steve Skidmore, said: “We go into the school and put on a big gameshow that’s about engaging and enthusing the kids making them realise that reading can be great fun because if you can engage and enthuse kids then that’s the first part of getting them into reading books. And then there’s the message about how reading is so important that the more you read the better you do in life and it is fundamental to the education of the young people that they do read books.

Councillor Kim McGuinness, cabinet member for culture and communities, said: “Newcastle Libraries and the Northern Children’s Book Festival are a perfect match. Both have creativity and learning at the centre of everything they do. This is a great opportunity for young people to connect with and experience the literary talents of professional writers. It’s fantastic for their development and provides the encouragement and inspiration they may need to pick up a pen or a book and get started on their own creative and educational journey.”

Writer Steve Barlow, said: “It is also true that parents are sometimes a bit reluctant to going into libraries and book shops and so kids from those families get even less exposure to books than their peers, and so it’s important that we have events like the Festival and Gala Day to get the parents involved as well. A whole family thing that’s how it ought to be.

He added: “It’s not just a matter of reading the text books that they are given that they have to be able to read for pleasure, to recognise the books they are going to enjoy and to read widely and to read a lot.”

Mrs Sandra Furno, Head Teacher of Christ Church CE Primary School talks of the visit of the Two Steves and the Northern Children’s Book Festival to the school. She said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity and experience for the children to see the face behind the book. They (young people) often know a lot of authors’ names who write these stories but they don’t get to know the personality behind them. I think it can also inspire the children – raise aspirations for themselves to become writers and artists.  It’s also very important for boys, who sometimes, but not always, have a negative attitude to writing and when we’ve got such fun and engaging authors in school they get a whole new perspective.”

A few young people from Christ Church CE Primary School were asked what they thought of the Northern Children’s Book Festival event.

Alina aged 10, said: “I really enjoyed it because it was spreading the message of telling kids to start reading more and more, and to find their appreciation for books.”

Davida aged 9, said: “I think it was really funny and the Two Steves are hilarious…it was so good!”

Pasha aged 10, said: “My best bit was me because I don’t really read at home and now I’m going to read all of my books now.”

The conclusion to the Northern Children’s Book Festival was a Gala Day [18th November] involving a host of the visiting and local authors hosted at The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word in South Shields. Across the whole of the North East the Festival has worked with 100 schools and reached 15,000 children (700 of which from Newcastle).

For further information about Newcastle Libraries please visit www.newcastle.gov.uk/libraries

To learn more information about The Two Steves please visit http://the2steves.net

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