Northern Ireland

Patron encourages schoolchildren to read for pleasure

Pauline Burgess (left) and Liz Canning from Booktrust NI with children from Millennium IPS
Pauline Burgess (left) and Liz Canning from Booktrust NI with children from Millennium IPS

A teacher and author has been established as a reading patron to encourage children to read for pleasure at school.

Pauline Burgess, who teaches English at St Malachy's High School in Castlewellan, will work with children at Millennium Integrated PS in Carryduff.

A writer of children's and adult fiction, her published work includes short stories and the Pony Palace series, aimed at 5-8 year olds. The books are inspired by Lessans Riding Stables, located between Carryduff and Saintfield, and the characters based on the horses there.

The Patron of Reading (PoR) scheme is popular in Wales where special, designated children's authors and schools form personal attachments.

Each patron might be a writer of fiction, non-fiction, a poet, storyteller or an illustrator. Tenure lasts for a minimum of a year, but the exact length is decided mutually between the school and patron.

Now endorsed by Booktrust NI in the north, Ms Burgess is being established as patron of reading in Millennium IPS. It is understood that she is the first to hold such a position in Northern Ireland.

The aim is to bring an exciting dimension to the school's quest to create a buzz about books. It is seen as an antidote to the testing culture so prevalent in education today.

Everything the patron does is designed to help encourage a reading for pleasure culture - this may involve book quizzes, book recommendations, discussions, plays, poetry bashes, blogs, book trailers and visits.

"My purpose is to create and enhance a culture of reading for pleasure in the school, and Mary Roulston, principal, is particularly excited about this as M.I.P.S. is about to open a new purpose-built library which will underpin all the reading and literacy opportunities in the school," Ms Burgess said.

"I hope to visit the school about five to six times between now and June and encourage the creation of book groups, discussion, creative writing and many other interactive activities which will bring reading and writing to life.

"I will also be encouraging participation in schemes like the Summer Reading Challenge and Chatterbooks, both of which are run by LibrariesNI."