Inspire pupils with reading

A guest blog written by Vashti Hardy, one of our keynote speakers for the Literacy Conference 2019. Writer of children's books with a special interest in children’s writing, especially free-writing and the use of journals and creating fantasy worlds.

By Vashti Hardy on 10 Sep 2019

Our guest blogger, Vashti Hardy, will be featured in this year's Literacy Conference as one of our keynote speakers. She is a writer of children's books with a special interest in children’s writing, especially free-writing and the use of journals and creating fantasy worlds; Author of award-winning book, Brightstorm, at the West Sussex Children Story Book Award 2019; and shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize 2019.

Read Vashti's account of how reading in school inspired her life and the key events that happened during her schooling which directly impacted the path Vashti would end up taking in my life, both with teaching and as a writer....

As a past teacher turned author, I’m fascinated by the connection between the books we read in school, and the way they link, not only to our educational experience as a child, but also our wider journey through life. For me, the books I encountered as a child, and the reader teachers I was fortunate enough to have been taught by, have likely been one of the biggest influencers in my life journey, not only as a writer, but as a person.

I can pinpoint four key events that happened during my schooling which directly impacted the path I would end up taking in my life, both with teaching and as a writer.

The first, was in my primary school. It was a place that had imagination and story in the fabric of school; the headteacher was a wonderful woman called Mrs Fitzsimmons. She read us a story during each and every assembly she took, and her particular favourite was My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, illustrated by Shirley Hughes. This sent a strong message that story and books were highly valued, and as a child whose parents didn’t read bedtime stories, these moments were treasured by me.

The second was when I was six and a teacher at the same school read Rebecca’s World by Terry Nation as a whole class read. This is the book that made me a reader and sparked my love for creating imaginary worlds. As she read the opening chapter, I could see the images in my head almost like a film – I could practically feel my imagination growing with the words. It was an incredibly powerful moment, and a memory that has never dimmed. I can still see pink fog that Rebecca walked into as clearly as when I was six.

The next was in secondary school, at the moment post-primary when my love of books was faltering, an English teacher brought in a box of books and said to us, “These are my own books that I’ve read, enjoyed and think are really good. If you want to borrow one, be my guest. Take as long as you like to read it and bring it back whenever!” The idea of ‘off-curriculum’ unjudged reading was empowering for me, and the books I borrowed were indeed brilliant and ignited the fire of reading again for me.

The fourth key moment was writing related, but I’d like to share it as a further example of the power of freedom. The same teacher offered the class free-writing journals for us to write about whatever we would like: a list of our favourite pop songs, a poem, character drawings, a comic strip, a story, in short – anything. And the crucial thing for me were his words that he wouldn’t ever mark it. So I took one, and that journal gave me the freedom I needed to experiment and to start to see myself as a writer.

As a teacher, these experiences made me acutely aware of the difference enthusiastic reader teachers make, and how small acts can have a life-long lasting impact.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to exploring this more at the One Education Conference in October ’19 along with sharing examples of how teachers are using one of my stories, Brightstorm, creatively across the primary curriculum to inspire their pupils in a variety of inspiring ways!

About the Author

Vashti Hardy is a writer of children's books living near Brighton in Sussex with her husband and three teens. She was a primary school teacher for several years, and has a special interest in children’s writing, especially free-writing and the use of journals and creating fantasy worlds. She has a first-class honours teaching degree with English specialism and an MA in Creative Writing from the University of Chichester. After leaving teaching to focus more on her writing, she became a copywriter and digital marketing executive.

Vashti is an alumni member and writing buddy of The Golden Egg Academy and is represented by Kate Shaw of The Shaw Agency, and her books BRIGHTSTORM and WILDSPARK are published in the UK by Scholastic.

One Education Literacy Conference

Make sure to book a place on our Literacy Conference 2019, which is focused on 'Literacy across the Curriculum'. A Jam-packed day full of amazing speakers and workshops, it is not to be missed! Find out more details about the agenda, the keynotes and the workshops you can choose from!

Please get in touch or visit this page for more information.

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