The other day, I received an email from a Scottish teacher currently teaching English in an international school in China. In her message, Joanna explained that before the school broke up for New Year holidays, she had been reading my book The Superpower Project to her class. Of course, school did not return after the holidays; instead, pupils found themselves stuck indoors due to coronavirus quarantine measures. Joanna and teachers like her, have been making the best of the situation, trying to keep pupils upbeat and focussed, by teaching online as best they can. Joanna had been recording herself reading chapters of The Superpower Project and sending them to the class – a chapter every day, read aloud. She wondered if I would be able to send an email to the class, wishing them well and encouraging them to keep listening and reading.
Writers are often delicate folk and everyone writes in different ways about different things for different reasons. However, the one thing I would say most writers have in common is that they like to know people are enjoying reading their stories. And not just in the traditional “please leave an amazon review” way. You made something, someone likes it. That’s nice.
More importantly though, if I take myself out of the situation, Joanna’s email was just this brilliant reminder of how important books and reading can be in times of crisis. And how fortunate for writers and readers alike, that there’s this incredible world of people, booksellers, bloggers, librarians and teachers, who can help you find just the story you need in those moments.
It’s been four years this month since The Superpower Project was published, five years this month since I finished the first draft and entered it in the Kelpies Prize. That’s a long time in books. And though I never did quite get my proposed sequel together, it’s delightful to know that people are still reading my book, and that it’s providing some comfort. (For the record, the sequel was going to have Antarctic explorer Birdie Bowers discovering a spaceship during the Terra Nova expedition, a collection of musical superweapons designed by James Watt, plus all our heroes developed more superpowers and also there was an alien spider queen. I’ll be the first to admit it was a bit messy.)
So, I recorded myself reading a few chapters of The Superpower Project and sent them on to Joanna, and we’ve agreed that the class are going to send me some questions to answer. Sort of a long distance Live Literature session. We’ll keep in touch. These days, it feels good to make connections like that.
As we head towards World Book Day, with all the costumes and additional activities that can sometimes entail, its definitely important to remember that the thing children will respond to most – is being read books. The research proves it. And it’s not just children and young people, you can read to grown ups too. You can even just read out loud to yourself. It's not weird, it's fine. In fact. there’s lots of accessible ways to tell stories for all audiences.
This world book day, if you can, read someone a story– it might just make their day.
Here’s one I read earlier, Superhero Supermarket, which originally appeared in Storytime Magazine Issue 34.