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The 3rd Great Read

Think about your family or indeed think back to your school days and picture the child that you can clearly identify as a ‘book worm’.  He or she will be cheerfully seated in class or perhaps on the sofa with a book right under their nose.  Sometimes it will be a classroom and the book will be secretly placed under the desk; sometimes it will be a bedroom where the child may have a torch just to finish reading that last chapter of their favourite book even after ‘lights out’.  Although all three of my daughters loved reading it is the youngest who comes straight to mind. On Saturdays she would head to the library not just with one or two books to return but with a small bag containing new and repeat loans according to the favourite book of the moment.  She was and still is truly a ‘book worm’.

The Great Read is a competition devised by one of our talented teachers, Mrs Lizzie Russell for just such a child.  Her dream was to produce a competition with questions centered around some set texts which would include a classic book, a contemporary book, some non-fiction and include an illustration round as well as a round featuring general knowledge. Not content with encouraging children to read and enjoy these set texts, she wanted the setting to be knee deep in literacy themes with a ‘Sorting Hat’ from Harry Potter, to mix the teams and a sherbet DibDab as a prize in homage to Kes Gray’s Daisy books. Then the dream creator met the dream maker, our Art Director Mrs Jules Degg and the dream grew. What if the children could come through a wardrobe door, past fur coats and into a forest of fir trees with snow on the ground….?  By taking a large freezer cardboard box, mixing a whole range of paints and adding a large helping of artistic talent, that is exactly what happened during the 1st ever Great Read.  I wondered if it could ever be beaten.  The second year saw the children entering the hall by sliding down a rabbit hole with adults walking through the looking glass- yes, you have guessed it – the theme was to celebrate 150 years of Alice in Wonderland.

So to the 3rd Great Read. How could we match that?  The answer was for Lizzie to suggest that The Greek Myths form the basis of the ‘classic book’ round’ promptly followed by Jules turning yet another freezer box into a Trojan Horse!  Cue 40 children entering through the said Trojan Horse into a hall  facing a beach scene with Perseus’ chest and Odysseus’s Scylla the 6 headed monster curled around the gym bars. Go forward a little further and face Medusa’s snake filled hair next to the mirrored shield and feathered sandals.  To the left a cave with a giant boulder behind which Cyclops slept surrounded by bones and sheep and opposite the Minotaur perched by the exit leading to a maze where Ariadne would eventually lead the children to have their refreshments on Circe’s Island.

To be immersed in such a setting answering literacy quiz questions with children from 6 schools in mixed teams was a dream come true for some of our young competitors. ‘This is my best day ever’ said one competitor as he was led across the maze during the interval.  Each team was named  after a character and so the 12 teams ranged from Hedwig to Mrs Tiggywinkle stopping at Flat Stanley and Toad of Toad Hall on the way.  In the end Paddington won narrowly beating Alice in Wonderland  during a close competition on a magical evening.  We even had real author and prize wining illustrator Polly Dunbar present during the evening who judged the poetry competition in the interval and awarded the prizes.

So I don’t know what you were doing last Thursday but I was enveloped in a ‘Literacy Wonderland’ enjoying every moment.  At Circe’s Island during the interval the children had drinks labelled ‘Circe’s Potion’ and ate cakes with ‘Percy Pig’ tops.  As they walked back to the hall for the second half small pig tails appeared on their backs.  Why?  You will have to read The Voyages of Odysseus to find out. 40 Year 2 children did and laughed and laughed at the reference, so do borrow a copy.  It is a great read!

Annie Thackray