Everyone is a Writer! Creating a Reading Culture at Oasis Academy Short Heath

In January 2015 the brilliant Vivian French visited primary schools in Birmingham with the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book TourHannah Tipper, class teacher at Oasis Academy Short Heath, describes how Vivian’s visit sparked a long-lasting relationship between the school and the author and inspired pupils from Reception to Y6 to read and write stories!

Vivian was awe-inspiring in getting our children excited about books, reading and writing.

On Wednesday 28 January 2015, Oasis Academy Short Heath was delighted to welcome award-winning children’s author Vivian French into our school.  Vivian was awe-inspiring in getting our children excited about books, reading and writing. Her visit encouraged children to be creative and imaginative in their writing and she was the judge of this in a whole school story writing competition!

Before Vivian’s Visit 

In order to optimise children’s engagement and get them excited about the author visit we had a whole school assembly to introduce Vivian and her books. Originally we had planned for just Years 4-6 pupils to listen Vivian’s talk. However, after sharing just a few extracts from The Robe of Skulls, enthusiasm from our pupils was so great that we had to widen our audience to include the Year 3 pupils as well!

To help publicise the event and remind children about the opportunity for book signings, the Gifted and Talented club produced posters which were put up around school.

Everyone is a writer! 

Vivian’s encouraging and motivating talk on how she became a writer and her brilliant writing and story-planning tips equipped children with the confidence to write their own imaginative stories. They were astounded to hear her say that there was not just one writer in the hall but 300! Pupils were filled with enthusiasm and inspiration to write creatively and so we arranged for a whole school story writing competition from Reception to Year 6. This competition was then judged by Vivian herself during her next visit in March.

Pupils were astounded to hear that there was not one writer in the hall but 300!

After Vivian’s incredible assembly children in Years 3-6 all really wanted to read The Robe of Skulls so we purchased multiple copies as Guided and Class readers so all children will have the opportunity to read the book. 

A Second Visit

As all the teachers and children from years 3-6 highly rated Vivian, we asked if she would come back to lead an assembly for Reception and KS1 and a storytelling session for our nursery pupils. We wanted all pupils in the Academy to benefit from her outstanding and life changing story telling skills - much to our delight Vivian agreed!

Vivian’s assembly for Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 was another huge success. Many children ordered copies of her books to get signed. In fact, so many children wanted to purchase her books, Vivian had to hunt down additional copies! 

The storytelling session for 70 nursery children was splendid. All the nursery children were completely engrossed throughout the half hour session. Teachers could not believe how still they sat and how well behaved they were! This is a true reflection on how Vivian is able to engage all pupils with her stories, in both written and oral form.

The children were completely engrossed throughout the story-telling session. Teachers could not believe how still they sat and how well behaved they were!

During the second visit, Vivian also judged the whole school story writing competition. Prizes were given from Reception to Year 6 and their work was attached to our ‘Wonderful Writing’ school display board. All the children also gave themselves the 'Writer's stamp of approval'.

Future Plans

Vivian’s visit had such a positive impact this academic year and, to our excitement, she is willing to return to our Academy in September to run further workshops and judge more competitions! We are planning a school book week with the motto “Drop everything and read!” We will also have a book review and story writing competition to be judged by Vivian, to help motivate our children to read and write for pleasure. Children will also have another opportunity to buy a book to be signed by Vivian. This is really important as now our pupils have more understanding of what an author visit entails and how treasurable it can be to get a personal book signing from a famous author.

We look forward to reaping the benefits of being further associated with Vivian to help raise standards in reading and writing, especially for the more-able pupils. Hopefully, later on in the academic year, we can have further workshops from Vivian for our children and maybe a visit from one of her illustrators too . . . the possibilities are endless!

Explore the wierd and magical world of The Robe of Skulls with these cross-curricular learning resources and find out more about inspiring pupils with the work of Vivian French in our case studies.


Hannah Tipper

Hannah Tipper is a class teacher at Oasis Academy Short Heath in Birmingham.