Today I have learned plenty from my place as a spectator in the workshops at North Cornwall Book Festival. Steph Haxton taught me everything from making a little book by folding paper, to publishing one. But what sticks with me the most is the children I have spoken to, and how they are still incredibly excited about books. In Haxton’s workshop she asked: ‘What is a book?’ and a boy replied, ‘the skin of dead trees tattooed’, but I get the impression that the children here think a book is much more than that. My point was proved when Haxton said, ‘Put your hands up if you would prefer to read from a book rather than a Kindle’, and a wave of hands shot up enthusiastically. The value and individual story within a physical book still stays with us in this digital age.
After the workshop I interviewed Arthur, who said he really enjoyed the practical, ‘hands-on’ workshop, during which he found it ‘impossible to switch off’. He looks forward to showing off his new book-making skills to his brother, and said if he was to write a book he’d use the publishing skills demonstrated to him today. At lunchtime, I was thrilled to talk to a group of pupils from the Richard Lander School, who all agreed that so far they had enjoyed Natalie Hayne’s workshop the most. They described it as ‘dramatic’, and loved learning about Aristotle, Greek tragedies and how authors develop stories. Their teacher was also impressed by Hayne’s ability to captivate the children’s attention for an hour, especially on such academic subjects. I asked the students what kind of books they liked, and to my surprise one responded with John Steinbeck as his favourite author, and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee as his favourite book. Other author’s names I have heard crop up throughout the day have been fantasy fiction writers such as Philip Pullman and J.K. Rowling, it was comforting to hear that stories I read and loved as a child are equally as read and loved today. I’m left feeling relieved that children and young adults remain fascinated with books, but also concerned that with Steinbeck and Harper Lee fans, they might be more well-read than me!
by Rai Sweet