Cramlington school chosen on Canadian author’s UK tour

A Canadian author has visited Cramlington Learning Village on a whistle-stop tour around the UK to promote her new book.

At the school – just one of nine chosen by her publisher – Susin Nielsen talked about her difficult upbringing, her childhood ambition to be a writer, her transition from being a caterer for TV actors to becoming their screenwriter, and finally her success as a novelist.

Her latest book, No Fixed Address, tells the story of a 12-year-old who lives in a van with his mother and pet gerbil.

Like all her work, No Fixed Address addresses problems – such as poverty and homelessness – which, said Susin, affect so many of her young readers in the numerous countries where her books have been published.

Her aim, she said, is two-fold: “Hopefully there are kids who read my books and either feel that they are not alone – it’s not just them – or they have never stopped to think about what it might be like to be in that situation, and maybe they’re just going to be a little bit nicer to that person who is.”

Harriet Dunlea, from the author’s publisher Andersen Press, said: “We’re always keen to introduce our authors to their audience and school visits are a fantastic way to connect with young readers.

“It is always a delight to introduce our authors to Cramlington Learning Village where there is a huge enthusiasm for reading, and we are so pleased Susin Nielsen was able to meet the students during her UK tour.”

author-susin-nielsen-with-cramlington-learning-village-studentsSusin was the latest high profile writer to visit Cramlington Learning Village.  Last month Holly Bourne, author of “Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes” spoke to students about the positive impact of reading for pleasure on young people’s mental health.

Her visit coincided with the publication of a study by the National Literacy Trust of nearly 50,000 UK children and young people. It found that those who are most engaged in reading for pleasure are three times more likely to have higher levels of mental wellbeing than those who are not.

The message of the Trust’s study, as well as the themes tackled by the authors, is reflected in the priority given to reading at Cramlington Learning Village. “A lot of the novelists coming in at the moment help our students to think more about one another,” said Will Mays, the school’s Literacy Co-ordinator.

Will Mays, Cramlington Learning Village students and author Susan Nielsen

Will Mays, Cramlington Learning Village students and author Susan Nielsen

“The topics and subject matters are things that a lot of the students have experienced.  It’s important to read about it, because if that’s happening to you – and if somebody’s writing about that – you feel less isolated.  If it’s not happening to you it makes you more empathetic and helps you to understand the way other people feel and act.”

He said reading fiction at school and at home also benefits students’ academic progress: “When it comes to studying and analysing text, they should be better at doing that because of the engagement they’ve had with reading at a younger age.”

Mr Mays’ comments were underlined by the publication this month of another study – this time of 250,000 teenagers from 35 industrialised countries – which found that teenagers who read more fiction (novels, narratives and stories) have reading skills more than six months ahead of teenagers who almost never read fiction.

Researchers at the University College of London’s Institute of Education found the difference was even evident where the teenagers who did not consume fiction still read magazines, comics and newspapers.