Chris Riddell inspires Belfast pupils to doodle, draw and visit their school library

Published on: 08 December 2017 Author: Kathryn Anderson

This October, Chris Riddell, author, illustrator and former Waterstones Children’s Laureate, paid a visit to pupils in East Belfast as part of the BookTrust NI Author Tour to help inspire a love of reading and drawing among local primary school students.

Chris Riddell at Elmgrove school in Belfast

Riddell, author of the Goth Girl series, shared stories, illustrations and sketches in a workshop with 90 P5 pupils. Each student was also given their own personally signed copy of a Chris Riddell book of their choice. Pupils picked from Goth Girl and the Sinister Symphony, Doodle a Day, Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse and Ottoline and the Yellow Cat.

The tour is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland Lottery Fund to help young children develop a love of reading and books.

Leza Dunlop, Elmgrove Primary School Literacy Coordinator, said:

'Elmgrove Primary School are absolutely delighted to have had the very talented author and illustrator Chris Riddell visit P5 pupils and staff. We were all very excited about learning from such a gifted and prize-winning writer. The children were so inspired by his visit, he left them bursting with ideas which they are excited to develop. We are extremely grateful to BookTrust and the Arts Council who facilitated such a special event.'

Liz Canning, Head of BookTrust Northern Ireland, added:

'Author visits are so crucial to inspiring children to read from an early age. Seeing Chris in action, doodling and sharing stories was fantastic. It was great to see the children enjoying the session and genuinely having fun with the stories, proving that reading really can be just as fun as playtime.'

 Chris Ridell and Elmgrove pupils

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

'Artist visits like this are a fantastic opportunity for pupils to meet a successful writer or illustrator and gain an insight into their creative process. Today’s workshop with Chris Riddell has been a great success - inspiring the children to start thinking about developing their own stories. The Arts Council is pleased to support Booktrust NI in promoting the value of reading to young people across Northern Ireland.'

After a busy day entertaining local primary school children, Chris then went on to meet literacy coordinators at C.S. Lewis Square in Belfast. The network, formed thanks to a partnership through Eastside Learning, met with Chris to talk about the challenges they face.

Chris, currently President of the School Library Association, also spoke at the annual SLA NI conference, discussing the importance of school libraries and how crucial they are to help encourage readers and inspire children to choose creative paths.

Chris said of his trip:

'I had a wonderful visit to Northern Ireland, full of highlights. Talking and drawing with the children of Elmgrove School in East Belfast was a pleasure... I also loved meeting Aslan, the Witch, and Mr Tumnus in C.S. Lewis Square and talking with literacy coordinators in the beautiful centre overlooking it.

Chris Riddell's Aslan sketch CS Lewis Square

'The following day I met many familiar faces from my visit to Stormont last year. Passionate and articulate school librarians at the SLA NI conference made me very welcome but also made me even more aware of the challenges facing libraries in our schools and in the wider community. I will take these memories away with me and look forward to returning again soon to make new ones. A big thank you to BookTrust NI, the Arts Council and Queen's University for hosting me.'

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