Reading and writing – it should be child’s play

Children's Book Awards 2010
Children's Book Awards 2010
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n Here are the nominations for this year’s Sheffield Children’s Book Awards:

THEY say everyone has a book inside them just waiting to be written and Sheffield dad Martin Naylor has done just that.

The 55-year-old works full-time for a parcel delivery company but has still managed to find time to create an entire new world and write two books about the funny antics that take place there.

They are ideal for pulling youngsters into a magical place and letting their imaginations run riot.

When Martin finds time he wants to follow-up Secrets of Hightower and The Barrowhouse Incident to complete the trilogy.

The stories are about thousands of slightly crazy Elvereys and the young boy who has the challenging task of keeping their world a secret.

Although they are aimed at children over the age of 10, Martin admits there are plenty of adults who enjoy them too.

It took Martin five years to write the first and 18 months to complete his second novel so fans will just have to wait patiently for the third.

For now the secrets of the final book are just that, confined to Martin’s imagination.

“My intention was always for this to be a trilogy. People are asking for the third one but because of the pressures of work I haven’t even started yet. The storyline is in my head – it is just putting it down on paper.

“Working full time meant I could only write in my spare time so it was a slow process to write Hightower.

“I was actually about nine or ten years old when I came up with the basic idea, although it would be another 40 odd years before I put pen to paper!

“Fortunately, Barrowhouse didn’t take quite so long to write – good job too or I’d have been nearly 100 years old by the time it was finished.”

Martin’s advice to aspiring writers is to persevere, get help from people who have done it before and be willing to adapt when criticism comes along.

He also believes reading – as well as being a joy – is crucial to success.

“If I hadn’t read as much as I had there is no way I could have put pen to paper in the first place,” Martin said.

“I always say that the more kids read, the more open-minded they get about everything.

“Kids are so keen to do sports but you can’t be a great footballer unless you train for it. I think it is the same – you can’t be good a writer unless you read. You are putting your brain in training by doing lots of reading.”

There are many South Yorkshire initiatives aimed at getting youngsters reading including Dolly Parton’s UK Imagination Library scheme in Rotherham and the Sheffield Children’s Book Award.

A survey into the reading habits of Rotherham’s pre-school children has revealed that receiving the books through the country singer’s scheme has dramatically increasing the reading habits of whole families.

Imagination Library sees youngsters in the town receive a free book through the post every month from birth to the age of five.

The survey of 500 families showed that time spent reading by everyone in the family had increased since their children became part of the scheme – with all generations getting in on the action.

Three quarters of parents felt books also improved their child’s development in speech, language, listening skills and vocabulary.

Dolly Parton said: “I’m thrilled to see that entire families are enjoying reading books from The Imagination Library. ”

The Sheffield Children’s Book Awards began in 1988 to encourage youngsters to read by highlighting the best children’s books published each year.

Martin’s Secrets of Hightower was highly commended at last year’s Sheffield Children’s Book Awards – despite competition from five top-selling children’s authors and the major publishing houses behind them.

More than 250 newly published books were considered for the 2011 project and a total of 212 school groups will help pick the winner.

You can also have your say on who should win this year’s prizes by joining the vote at your local library before the award ceremony which takes place at the City Hall in November.

Find out more about Martin Naylor at www.martingnaylor.com and signed copies of his books area available at The Star shop, York Street.