Our current project is a book created with the children of Chalkhill School in Wembley. We are working with the Year 5 children to create an early years picture book suitable for Reception and Year 1.
We are doing this for many reasons. We must ensure that the book reflects the culture of the school and wider community. We also are welcoming the children into the creative process to give them a voice and an opportunity to participate in the learning of the younger children. This helps them develop empathy, and a sense of responsibility, as well as giving them the chance to see their creation being used and valued within the school environment.
The story is about children on a school visit to a city farm. Within the scope of the story, the Y5 children will choose a title, give names to the protagonists and choose an appropriate ending. They will also follow the illustrator’s work throughout the process.
As if we needed a reminder of how vital the work we are doing is, all 60 children listed only traditional English names for the characters in the story. They have already learned that they do not qualify for inclusion in books. This is why we work in the way we do: so that Y5 use their voices effectively in a great story for all children and the younger children see themselves in a story.
During the session one girl shyly called me over and pointed to a page in Abdi’s day where it mentions a girl called Samira. “That’s my name!” Her list of suggestion for names had previously included only traditional English names.
The children will continue to work on the story and email us their choices. On our next visit, we will pull together their suggestions and together choose the ones which work in the story.