Magnificent Magpies at Derby Uni

Last month I visited Derby University to run collage workshops with students on the Bachelor of Education course. The workshops are the fabulous idea of an old school friend of mine, now lecturer-extraordinaire, Becky Manton, and this is the third year running we've teamed up to talk about how a picture book is made. She's always so passionate about children's literacy and the importance of reading for pleasure that by the end of the session, half of me wants to give up this illustration lark and become a teacher myself (although later I remember how exhausting it is to stand up in front of a room full of people and be that enthusiastic ALL day, every day. I am in complete awe of anyone who can do that and work a 60 hour week).

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At the beginning of the session I have to talk through the process of illustrating a picture book and explain how this all ties into a mysterious person called Doonan's list of the 'ingredients' that go into an illustration: No. 1, a scheme of colour. "So everyone... here I've used warm colours to make it look autumnal..." (I always feel like a bit of an idiot at this point, because it seems to me that Jane Doonan has given this a lot more thought than I have).

Fortunately, later comes my favourite part of the session, the collage workshop, where students create their own illustrations for Magpie's Treasure. I'm always so impressed with how great the finished collages are! Here are a few from this year:

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All SO lovely. I'm slightly obsessed with the way they've done the sky in the middle one above, and check out the beautiful magpie below! Apart from being astonished by how great the finished artwork is, the main thing I take away from the day is this: reading for pleasure has been shown to be more important for children’s educational success than their family's socio-economic status. Isn't that amazing? I love hearing the students discuss their own ideas and thoughts about how they'll encourage their future pupils to read. Really puts this whole cutting-and-sticking fandango into perspective.

On the subject of reading, my brother-in-law, Stephen Bush, wrote this gorgeous piece on "how a sugar company taught me to read", which I love.

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