• It’s good to be bad!

    23 October 2011

    Had a nice few days in London. Met with the editor of my "Zom-B" series for the first time, and we clicked straight away. It's always good to have a close working relationship with your editor -- you need to be able to rely on them to keep you on your toes, to spot things you might have missed, to challenge you on certain points. I think I'm in safe hands with Venetia, which is good news for the series, and good news for you guys too!! The team also have some exciting ideas for the covers and interiors, which I'll be sharing with you lot as and when things progress...


    Just before I went to London, I received the following email from an Irish teacher which made me smile:


    I'm a secondary school English teacher teaching in a disadvantaged school. I'm not sure if this is the correct forum for this message but I think it 's really important for authors to get this kind of feedback. We've been piloting an accelerated reading programme with our special needs classes and it's proven to be really successful already, in terms of raising students' reading ages. Anyway, we knew we were on to a winner when one of the students (who had previously listed his interests as comprising of only one item, football), was caught acting suspiciously. It was assumed he was checking the latest football results on  his mobile, or undertaking another equally nefarious deed! When we discovered he was in fact reading one of your books, instead of listening in History class, I couldn't hide my delight. The students are comparing, discussing and devouring your books. I'm so thrilled that an Irish author has managed to captivate this most difficult of audiences, the reluctant reader with learning difficulties. Many congratulations and keep them coming!


    Heh heh -- I love it when kids get into trouble for reading!! It happened to me a few times in school, where I got caught reading when I should have been studying. Of course it's important to show respect to your teachers in all classes, so I would never openly applaud fans for reading my books instead of focusing on their lessons -- but at the same time it's a great compliment!!! I also think it illustrates a point which I'm always keen to stress -- that books are FUN. I think most reluctant readers fall into that category mainly because they associate books with schoolwork -- they think books are something they HAVE to read, the same way they HAVE to learn maths and history and so on. It's not always their fault -- many teachers believe the same thing and use novels purely in an academic way. I think that's a shame. Books are the same as films or bands or video games -- they're part of the entertainment industry. Yes, they DO have very positive side-effects, and kids who read will usually do well in other subjects. But primarily they're all about the buzz, the twists, the laughs, the scares, the thrills.


    One of the schools I visited on my most recent tour had developed a Reading For Fun programme, where a period was set aside each day during which students were allowed to read for fun, no tests, no homework, no associations with their coursework. I think every school should do something like this. While it's non-quantifiable, I firmly believe that children will improve in all areas of their studies if they read for fun. And, more importantly, I think the benefits stretch far beyond the classroom, that readers get more out of the world than other people, that they ask more questions, look at life from a variety of angles, seek out different experiences. In my opinion, a reader is a more well-rounded individual. I don't think you can turn children into readers by forcing them to read -- you just have to dangle an array of exciting books in front of them and encourage them to read for pleasure and wait for them to find one that captures their imagination. I always love it when I hear that one of my books has made that first breakthrough -- I think it's the highest compliment a writer can be paid. Hurah for illicit reading!!!!!

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