Writing a book with the children of Cherry Tree Primary School
Back in January I was lucky enough to secure the best job in the world!
Cherry Tree Primary School in Watford has the most enthusiastic, forward-thinking head teacher I have ever come across. Cheska Tyler is something of a miracle worker. Every member of staff and every child looks happy – all the time!
In December 2021, Cheska had secured funding for four ‘catch-up tutors’ to work alongside some of the children at Cherry Tree whom she believed would benefit from a bit of extra help. In some cases the children needed to catch up, but in others the children needed to be pushed to achieve their full potential.
So it was that I found myself working with some of the loveliest children I have ever come across. One-to-one and small group tutoring are staggeringly effective teaching methods. A child who is confused and lost in a full class environment can flourish and grow when given that extra bit of attention.
Having heard about my passion for writing, Cheska asked if I might run a Year 6 Book Club. I’d never actually been to a book club before, let alone run one, but I like a challenge, so armed with a big tin of cookies as bribes – I welcomed a surprisingly large number of pupils into the library for the first session. I read a short story and together we discussed its merits.
After four weeks, some of the children had dropped away (despite the cookies) and others had joined. I told them they could choose, from three options, how to proceed with the book club:
1. Continue to read the short stories.
2. Read my book It’s Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella.
3. Help me to write my new book about street children in India.
The result was unanimous, so I got to work preparing the first few chapters of “The Railway Children of Mumbai".
The children sat with pencils and paper, and as I read they listened quietly, making notes of any words/phrases/ideas that needed improving or implementing. Each child had something to say, and I was completely blown away – right there before me was an articulate group of young people, my target audience, helping me with my writing! It was a writer's dream!
We completed The Railway Children of Mumbai in July and we're very pleased with it. I've submitted to agents, but so far I've had three rejections and the rest haven't responded at all (rude). Apparently publishers aren't keen to publish anything which isn't an 'own voice' story. I have worked so hard to make the book authentic (see previous posts).
The problem for me is my name. I want to help Railway Children Charity by raising awareness and raising money (all profits will go to the charity), but I'm clearly not an Indian street child myself so could I possibly know anything about it?
Maybe I'll self-publish again...
By the way, I gave a copy of It's Raining in Moscow and I Forgot my Umbrella to all my Book Club children to say thank you. They said they enjoyed it! :)
You can buy a copy here.
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