Children’s author Kirsty Applebaum was recently involved in a Books and Stories Celebration Event run by Bournemouth University’s Schools Liaison team.

Seventy local Year Six school children who had been working with the team throughout the autumn term came to the university for the day.

They included pupils from Ocean Academy and Jewell Academy which are based in Bournemouth and are part of the Aspirations Academies Trust.

Ms Applebaum recently published her debut novel, The Middler, which was The Times and The Sunday Times Children’s Book of the Week. It has also been shortlisted for a number of awards.

Ms Applebaum hosted a writing workshop as part of Books and Stories which aims to improve reading age and encourage a love of words.

Ms Applebaum’s novel is an atmospheric story for 9-12-year-olds of forbidden friendship, loyalty and betrayal and is set in a near-future world.

Ms Applebaum was born in Essex and grew up in Hampshire. Now a full-time writer, she lives on top of a hill in Winchester, not far from the butterfly fields that influenced the setting of The Middler.

Here she reveals what happened as the workshop unfolded and gives her top tips on how to encourage children to fall in love with books and reading.

”We started the morning in a lecture theatre, where I spoke to the whole group. I talked a little about my first children’s novel, The Middler, and explained how it had grown out of my own semi-rural childhood setting.

I read some extracts from The Middler and spoke about my writing process. Then together, we all designed a brand-new story idea, drawing it out from a setting suggested by one of the pupils.

Afterwards, the group was split into two. One group joined me for a writing workshop while the other toured the university, then the groups swapped around so everyone had a chance to experience both.

In the workshops the pupils were overflowing with inventive story ideas. We created characters, gave them names and possessions, and began to build stories around them. There was so much variety!

Ideas included a boy astronaut with the latest high-tech space suit; a girl lost in a spooky, atmospheric forest; a unicorn finding it hard to make friends and a story set in a Victorian workhouse. The time zoomed past.

The day finished with a graduation ceremony complete with gowns, mortar boards and handshakes from the fabulous liaison team – and every pupil received a free book.

Reading is not only a wonderfully enjoyable thing to do, it can also enrich our lives in countless ways.”

The books we read as children embed themselves into our hearts and stay with us forever.

Kirsty Applebaum’s 7 tips to help encourage your child to read.

  1. Let children read whatever they want. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ books. Non-fiction, comics, magazines, picture books and graphic novels are all wonderful reading material, just like conventional storybooks.
  2. And more good news is, there’s no such thing as a book that’s too young for your child. Children (and adults!) love reading books that are intended for a younger audience.
  3. Reading effortlessly through a new ‘younger’ book can give children confidence in their reading ability, and reading an old favourite can be comforting.
  4. Read with your children. Children love having books read to them by family members and it’s a great way to spend time together without screens. Bedtime is great for this but if that doesn’t work for you choose another time that suits your family. I used to read to my boys while they were in the bath.
  5. And there’s no need to stop when they reach a particular age – keep reading to your children for as long as they’re happy to listen. Plenty of adults love having books read to them – that’s one reason audiobooks are so popular.
  6. Join your local library. Once children get the reading bug they can get through books at a cracking pace. Your local library not only loans books for free, it provides fantastic staff who can make recommendations and order in books they don’t have on the shelves.
  7. Finally, let your children see you reading. When they spot you buried in a good book or engrossed in a magazine, they’ll want to be just like you.

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