Boys get the reading bug as fun day brings Dickens to life

120382_LITERACY_2/2/12''(left) Lewis Thompson as Scrouge and (right) Paul Bruce as Jacob Marley with the winning students (l-r) Ethan Potter from Admiral Lord Nelson School, with Joel Hamorak and Sam Shepherd from Springfield School. ''Year 8 students from schools across Portsmouth attend a Dickens inspired literacy day at the Royal Marines Museum, Sourthsea.''Picture: Allan Hutchings(120382-165)
120382_LITERACY_2/2/12''(left) Lewis Thompson as Scrouge and (right) Paul Bruce as Jacob Marley with the winning students (l-r) Ethan Potter from Admiral Lord Nelson School, with Joel Hamorak and Sam Shepherd from Springfield School. ''Year 8 students from schools across Portsmouth attend a Dickens inspired literacy day at the Royal Marines Museum, Sourthsea.''Picture: Allan Hutchings(120382-165)
Cllr Suzy Horton

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GREAT expectations were met at a Charles Dickens-themed event to give schoolboys across the city a taste of how much fun reading can be.

Eighty 12 and 13-year-olds from City Boys, St Edmund’s Catholic School, Springfield, Priory and Miltoncross got an action-packed insight into the works of Portsmouth’s most famous son at the Royal Marines Museum.

On a tour of the museum, the youngsters ran into a number of Dickens characters including a lovelorn Miss Havisham begging Estella’s forgiveness in the cobwebbed attic and a spooked Ebenezer Scrooge scurrying away from Jacob Marley’s curses in the dark and eerie basement.

And after analysing different film versions of A Christmas Carol – said to be the best ghost story ever written – the boys wrote and acted out their own spooky scenarios.

Sam Lovell, 13, from Admiral Lord Nelson School, said: ‘It was epic – a really fun way of learning.’

Elliot Feltham, 13, from Miltoncross, added: ‘It was interesting, there were lot’s of different activities to take part in, it helped improve my creativity’.

A Tale of Our City – Great Expectations was organised by Portsmouth Education Business Partnership, which is backing The News literacy campaign Read All About It to boost reading across the region.

And 85 per cent of the boys who attended said they felt the event had made Dickens’ books more accessible to them – with 87 per cent saying reading and writing was made more fun.

Jess Memery, EBP’s business development manager, said: ‘It’s a genuine pleasure to bring the work of Dickens to life and inspire a group of boys who may not have been that enthusiastic about literacy or have a great deal of confidence in their own abilities, to sit scribbling away, bubbling with ideas and pride in their own achievements.’

It is well known that boys lag behind girls when it comes to reading from an early age.

Barry Wright, chair of governors at St Edmund’s, said: ‘The focus is always on literacy, and particularly for boys who don’t always achieve as well as they could.

‘Without good reading skills from an early age they will not be able to access the full curriculum.’

and that will have an impact on their GCSE results.’

SIX top authors have joined forces with The News to set an exciting writing competition. Ali Sparkes, Sophie McKenzie, Steve Cole, Mark Robson, Guy Bass and Andy Briggs are challenging youngsters to Do A Dickens.

They have each submitted opening paragraphs set in the Victorian period – which primary and secondary schoolchildren are invited to choose from to write 1,000 word short stories.

The winning stories will be published in The News – and read out on our website by the author whose paragraph they use.

Ali, who wrote the popular Shapeshifter series, said: ‘Dickens was fantastic at conveying an amazing amount of information wrapped up in fabulous description.

‘It’s a hard act to follow!’

Steve, author of The Astrosaurs, said: ‘How very apt and lovely it would be for a modern day Dickens to emerge from Portsmouth!’

For details on how to enter the competition before the July 1 deadline, visit portsmouth.co.uk/news/campaigns/read-all-about-it