Reading has changed over the years with many turning to online reading – but, whether online or with a book, it is a skill which, once developed, usually lasts a lifetime.
So, as part of the education section oft the airport’s Corporate Responsibility programme, we recently linked with the BookTrust NI to bring author Dan Friedman on a visit to St Genevieve’s High School, Belfast and Belfast Boys Model School.
The project began some weeks before the visit when we gave 60 year-8 pupils in each school a copy of Dan’s novel ‘Kick Off’, the first in his series of Jamie Johnson Football novels.
A librarian from the Education Authority schools’ library service went to each school to talk about the book and show the pupils the specially created Dan Freedman online platform. Pupils can go on, find out about Dan and his books and post comments and reviews. This built much excitement ahead of the author’s visit.
The teachers also did a lot of prep work and discussions based on the book which meant that the pupils were ready with questions in advance of the author’s visit.
When the day of the author’s session arrived, Dan spoke to the students about his career as a writer. He read from his books, encouraged pupils to ask questions and showed video clips of the Jamie Johnson series. He also spoke of his previous career as a football journalist.
Dan also met a small group of year ten students who had read his new novel ‘Unstoppable’ which deals with issues such as knife crime, sibling rivalry, drugs, family pressures
Talking about being involved in the BookTrust and Belfast International Airport project aimed at inspiring children inspired to read, Mr Freedman said: “Books and words changed my life. Every experience and achievement that I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of has been given to me by words and books. This project is our way of giving that same opportunity to these pupils. If we do our job right, we hope its effect will be felt for years to come.”
Liz Canning Head of BookTrust NI said “We're delighted to be working with the airport and Dan Freedman. Sharing stories helps to make reading fun as well as aiding educational development, social skills and emotional growth. Author events go a long way to inspiring a generation of readers.”
Jaclyn Coulter, the airport’s Head of Corporate Responsibility commented: “The pupils really became involved with the project and, judging by the question posed to Dan Friedman, they enjoyed his books and personal stories. Who know, we may have inspired some authors of the future!”
Each school was also given 6 copies of the other books in the series for the school library as we hoped that the pupils would want to read more.
At the visit to St Genevieve’s High School, Head of English, Noreen Lyttle, thanked those involved saying: “Our girls were thrilled to receive their own signed copy of ‘Kick Off’ and to meet the author. This experience has produced so much more interest in reading than we as teachers ever could do alone. There is now a queue to read the rest of the novels in the series. That is our measure of success!”
Following the visit, the pupils commented:
‘Thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to read the Dan Freedman books.’
‘I thought it was good because we got to learn lots more about the author and the book and characters. it was a good talk and it wasn’t boring at all!’
‘Thank you - Belfast International Airport - for sponsoring our school to see Dan, we all loved it.’