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Build A Book

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When I first meet Tanith Harding to ask about her new venture Build A Book, she is so excited I don’t know where to start! She’s the mother of two children aged 10 and six, she tells me, which is why she became so interested in the first place. We are also meeting with Max Smith, a primary school teacher who is one of the directors and founders of the company. It is Max and Tanith who go into schools to do the workshops, while Tanith’s sister-in-law Lucy, the third founder and director, is the ‘business brain’ and looks after the website.

But before we talk about the workshops, I need to understand the concept of Build A Book. With the constant bombardment of television and computer games, children are losing sight of their individual creativity. In addition many don’t feel that they have the skills or confidence to be creative. This is where Build A Book can help.

Aimed at Key Stage 2 pupils aged 7-11, Build A Book is a flexible programme that aims to:

• Reconnect your child with their imagination

• Install a sense of self belief and achievement

• Prove to your child that everyone can publish a story

• Give the child a tangible memory, (their own book) to keep forever

• Inspire every child to write

Tanith and Max run weekly, hour long structured workshops in schools over a six week period, giving guidance to children to develop a story based on whatever they wish to write about. They give them the tools to form this story into a book, using their own illustrations and words. The books are then sent away for publishing and parents and relatives are given the opportunity to purchase as many copies of this book as they wish. It brings creativity and technology together and shows every child that they can be an author.

Tanith and Max also run holiday workshops which last nine hours over three days and culminate in the finished product being sent away to be published on the final day.

So how does the Build A Book process begin? First of all each child is given a workbook where they will map out their plan, draw the pictures and write the story. If this sounds really daunting, Max and Tanith are there to help. They use a number of items to trigger the imagination, much like you would encourage an adult on a creative writing course to use photographs and mind maps etc, but geared towards children. The ‘You Choose’ book is full of ideas and helps each child to choose the characters, the location and all sorts of other things from the colourful pictures in the book. There are also ‘story cubes’ which are rolled like dice and generate ideas from the pictures on every side of the cube. These include objects and actions.

The concept is totally unrestrictive and unhindered and as creative as the child’s own imagination. The story can be about any subject from yourself, your family, your pet or your best friend to complete fantasy, just nothing too dark or violent as granny won’t be amused when she receives her copy!

Children can choose their own fonts for the text and the title and even design the page layouts. They can add a picture of themselves at the time they wrote the book and once printed they can sign it, thus creating a time capsule which will live with them forever. And it’s a good way of keeping all their pictures and writing together neatly in one place!

But if it still sounds daunting, be assured it won’t be. Max and Tanith help the children every step of the way, developing the story, adding descriptive adjectives where needed (but getting the children to come up with the words by prompting them), using VCOP - Vocabulary, Connections, Openers and Punctuation and finally helping them correct any spelling mistakes and grammar. But it doesn’t end there.

Once the story is completed in the workbook and all the images have been drawn and coloured, Max shows the children how to crop the images on-screen and save them onto the computer hard drive. They can now login to the online publishing programme.

The ‘final’ version of the text is typed out by the children, again with Max helping with any last minute typos and grammar and the images are uploaded. This is also where the children choose the fonts and layout and type the blurb which goes on the front and back covers. Many children prefer to draw an illustration for the front cover, often handwriting the title and their name as part of the picture. ‘Give them ownership’ says Max. Tanith tells me that she was ‘blown away’ by some of the illustrations the children did, especially by those who said they couldn’t draw.

Once everyone is happy with the finished book, it is submitted for publishing. Initially they only have one book printed, but once they have seen and approved the first copy they can order as many more as they like.

Books are 7x7 inches (18x18cm) and 20 pages long. Individual places are £30 for the after school course + £11.99 for one book. Additional copies cost £11.99 each. 50p from every copy purchased including re-sales goes to the school which booked the course. The three day workshop costs £45 and includes one copy of the book. ‘Build a book, keep it forever’ says Tanith’s eldest daughter Erin. We think it sums it up perfectly!

The website is at:

www.build-a-book.org.

You can also contact Tanith on 07986 819583 or email info@build-a-book.org for more information on holding an afterschool course or holiday workshop.