Woldingham school 12th -14th April … and the Amazing, Magical, Colourful World of Children’s Books!
The Federation of Children’s Book Groups held its annual conference at Woldingham school last weekend. It was another amazing weekend filled with special events, seminars and a book exhibition, all dedicated to the world of children’s books. I must admit it’s my favourite event to participate in each year, not only because it brings together publishers with school librarians, and teachers with writers and illustrators, but also because it promotes the love of reading in so many ways.
The conference opened with a Tea celebration marking 20 years of “The Gruffalo” with Macmillan publishers. This was followed by many different writers’ discussion panels and seminars. One of the highlights of the conference was the Empathy Panel with Miranda McKearney, Ross Montgomery, Sita Brachmachari and Jane Ray. It was a very interesting discussion by two writers and one illustrator on how to write books for children which promote empathy in modern society.
EmpathyLab and Empathy Day, which will be celebrated on the 11th of June 2019 this year, are all about helping us understand each other better. The main idea is that on Empathy Day we want everyone to READ, because stories and book characters build our real-life empathy, CONNECT, make new connections with people, inspired by sharing stories, and DO, put empathy in action in our homes and our communities. EmpathyLab founded Empathy Day in 2017 to help the rising generation drive a new empathy movement. The main inspiration behind it is what scientific research has shown, that “Stories are a powerful tool for developing empathy, because in identifying with book characters, we learn to see things from other points of view. For more information on EmpathyLab and to become involved in it, you can visit www.empathylab.uk
Another of my favourite events at the conference was the presentation of the classic children’s book “Giraffes can’t dance”, given by the man who created the wonderful illustrations for this book, Guy Parker Rees. Guy Parker Rees talked about the passion he has had for books and drawing since he was a little child as well as his devotion to books about animals. As he said characteristically, he knew from an early age that he was always going to write about or draw animals in his life, as all his school drawings were of elephants, lions and other animals. When Hachette publishers approached him about illustrating this book, Guy had no doubt that he would find the perfect image for the main character in this book, a giraffe who initially cannot dance like the other animals in the jungle but eventually realises it is because of his lack of confidence. When the giraffe discovers his potential and starts dancing under the stars in the evening sky, something magical happens! Books with beautiful illustrations capture children’s eyes and imagination and help them to dream more, making reading fun and more engaging. In this short video from Guy Parker’s lecture on “Giraffes can’t dance”, as he explains how he created the characters for this particular book as well as others, we become aware of his passion for nature and the world of animals and the inspiration he gets from them.
During the conference, the latest titles in children’s fiction and nonfiction were presented by the established publishers’ exhibition, a very important source for teachers, school librarians and anyone who loves children’s literature.
I’m looking forward to next year’s edition of this event and now, I have nothing else better to do than “dive” into reading all the books I found at the conference and share them with my pupils, colleagues and friends… . Until next time…
FOR THE LOVE OF READING!
Nikoleta Tsiama (mother&teacher in London)
A short bio
I have been writing since I was very young.
I don’t always know what I write about, but I write.
The person who had the greatest influence on me as a writer was Dr Dimitris Aristidopoulos, a great Greek modern philosopher. He read one of my stories when I was, I think, 11 years old.
I will always remember what he said when he commented on my writing; it was something like:
“Brilliant! One can say with confidence that your strength is in your hand!” and he pointed to my hand!
At that moment, I thought he was talking about my handwriting, but later, I understood.
No matter what I ended up doing for a living, I should never quit writing.
At present, I am working as a specialist teaching assistant and school librarian at St Cyprian’s Greek Orthodox Primary Academy, and at the same time, I am studying for my diploma to become a fully qualified teacher. I still have a long way to go. But time flies!
I finally decided that this was the best course of action for me to take as, after completing my studies in Professional Translation, learning 4 foreign languages, gaining work experience as an editor for Vimagazino, Athinorama magazine, Eleftherotypia newspaper, Status magazine and Greece travel magazine and obtaining my Tour Guide licence with several and amazing trips in Greece and abroad, as well as a background in jewellery design (this was a result of my contact with Mr Ilias Lalaounis after he employed me to work at his jewellery museum in Athens, such an inspiration!), I knew I had to write again.
I am currently focused on writing for children.
And after all, what better inspiration could be for this than actually working with children?
It’s a great pleasure and honour for me to be a member of Greek Teachers!