Teenage winners of The Sentinel and Staffordshire University’s Our Big Read competition have been rewarded for their writing success.
The 13 and 14-year-olds had their work published in a book, which was then given away to every year nine pupil in Stoke-on-Trent.
The 30 youngsters were invited to a day of creative masterclasses at Staffordshire University before being presented with framed and illustrated copies of their work.
Thea Roden, from Burslem, had her short story about a mysterious man in a green coat selected for the book.
The 14-year-old Haywood Academy pupil said: “It’s nice to know that someone else has read my story and to see how they’ve interpreted it, and also to have a physical copy that I can see and show to people.
“My family are very excited about me having my work published and say it’s a step in the right direction. It’s nice for me that they’re so enthusiastic.”
Thea’s work was illustrated by Staffordshire University cartoon and comic arts student Clara de Rambures, from Bath.
“It’s been good to meet Thea,” Clara said. “I helped to judge the entries and I was surprised by how well written they were. I hope that the pupils carry on with their writing.”
The Sentinel, StokeonTrentLive and Staffordshire University joined forces for the fifth year running to give away thousands of free books to pupils.
Nearly 3,000 copies of the book, Not Just Oatcakes, were printed which meant that everyone in the winning writers’ year group was able to share in their success.
The books were funded by Higher Horizons+ Uni-Connect, a government-funded initiative to raise young people’s aspirations.
Helen Norman, National Collaborative Outreach Programme Hub Manager for Higher Horizons+, said: “Our project is about raising the aspirations of young people across the Staffordshire area. Our Big Read really helps to get young people interested in reading, therefore helping literacy levels.”
The project was also backed by Newcastle-based engineering firm KMF, whose apprentices delivered the books to schools.
Gareth Cowlin, lecturer in cartoon and comic arts at Staffordshire University, said that illustrating the books was a great opportunity for his students.
He added: “The creative writing was so good to begin with it that it made life a lot easier for us. They wrote passionately about Stoke-on-Trent and their memories, which inspired the students to elevate their work to the quality provided by the children.”
Martin Tideswell, Editor of The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive, said: “Our Big Read is the sort of project I feel most proud of. I know my Sentinel colleagues and Staffordshire University friends echo those sentiments.
“The Sentinel is committed to bringing about serious, long-lasting change in this city. If we can help encourage a love of reading and writing where there perhaps wasn’t one before then we have taken a big step in the right direction.”
Historically, Stoke-on-Trent has lagged behind national literacy levels, but projects such as Our Big Read are helping to bridge the gap.
Our Big Read is set to return again next year.