Comic Boom - Comics in Education

Comic Boom - Comics in Education with Clare McGreevy and Chris Mould

June 12, 2024 Lucy Starbuck Braidley / Clare McGreevy / Chris Mould Season 5 Episode 2
Comic Boom - Comics in Education with Clare McGreevy and Chris Mould
Comic Boom - Comics in Education
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Comic Boom - Comics in Education
Comic Boom - Comics in Education with Clare McGreevy and Chris Mould
Jun 12, 2024 Season 5 Episode 2
Lucy Starbuck Braidley / Clare McGreevy / Chris Mould

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode Lucy chats with educator Clare McGreevy and illustrator Chris Mould about an innovative comic project involving schools across Rochdale, developing reading for pleasure through comics and also supporting the creation of comics - through re-imagining the untold stories of the historic Rochdale Town Hall. 

Clare McGreevy is an Advisory Teacher for Reading in Rochdale Council’s Virtual School. Prior to this, Clare had been a teacher, English Lead and Phase Leader with over 18 years of experience in education. She leads the OU/UKLA Reading for Pleasure Teachers’ Group in Rochdale and is the founder and Director of the annual Rochdale Children’s Literature Festival. She is passionate about giving young people the opportunities to express their voice and creativity through writing for pleasure.

Chris  Mould is an illustrator whose work ranges from children’s publishing to theatre and film, having produced a long backlist of children’s titles, theatre posters, editorial cartoons for major newspapers and character development work for animated features. He exhibits his artwork regularly, and commits to an ongoing programme of events.

Clare's recommendation for this episode:
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, illustrated by David Polonsky

Chris's recommendation for this episode:
Kingdom by Jon McNaught

Lucy's recommendation for this episode:
No Surrender, Adapted by The Rickard Sisters

Follow Clare:
Twitter/X:
@BookishToby

Follow Rochdale Children's Literature Festival:
Twitter/X:
@RCLFest

Follow Chris:
Insta:
@chrismouldink
Twitter/X:
@chrismouldink

Follow the podcast:
Insta:
@comic_boom_podcast
Twitter/X:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

This episode is sponsored by ALCS, The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.  Check out their range of copyright education tools, resources and planning  - including those highlighted on the show by following this link.

Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode Lucy chats with educator Clare McGreevy and illustrator Chris Mould about an innovative comic project involving schools across Rochdale, developing reading for pleasure through comics and also supporting the creation of comics - through re-imagining the untold stories of the historic Rochdale Town Hall. 

Clare McGreevy is an Advisory Teacher for Reading in Rochdale Council’s Virtual School. Prior to this, Clare had been a teacher, English Lead and Phase Leader with over 18 years of experience in education. She leads the OU/UKLA Reading for Pleasure Teachers’ Group in Rochdale and is the founder and Director of the annual Rochdale Children’s Literature Festival. She is passionate about giving young people the opportunities to express their voice and creativity through writing for pleasure.

Chris  Mould is an illustrator whose work ranges from children’s publishing to theatre and film, having produced a long backlist of children’s titles, theatre posters, editorial cartoons for major newspapers and character development work for animated features. He exhibits his artwork regularly, and commits to an ongoing programme of events.

Clare's recommendation for this episode:
Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, illustrated by David Polonsky

Chris's recommendation for this episode:
Kingdom by Jon McNaught

Lucy's recommendation for this episode:
No Surrender, Adapted by The Rickard Sisters

Follow Clare:
Twitter/X:
@BookishToby

Follow Rochdale Children's Literature Festival:
Twitter/X:
@RCLFest

Follow Chris:
Insta:
@chrismouldink
Twitter/X:
@chrismouldink

Follow the podcast:
Insta:
@comic_boom_podcast
Twitter/X:
@Lucy_Braidley
Contact: comicboompodcast@gmail.com

This episode is sponsored by ALCS, The Authors Licensing and Collecting Society.  Check out their range of copyright education tools, resources and planning  - including those highlighted on the show by following this link.

Music by
John_Sib from Pixabay

Hello, and welcome to comic boom, the comics and education podcast. If you're interested in hearing more about the crossover between comics and education, then this is the podcast for you. My name is Lucy Starbuck Braidley. And each week I'll be joined by fellow educator and academic, a librarian or a creator of comics to discuss their journey into comics and provide some inspiration to influence your practice and hopefully showing some lights on some titles you can bring into your libraries, classrooms And onto your bookshelves at home too. This episode of comic beam is sponsored by ALC S the authors licensing and collecting society. Hello everyone today. I'm very excited to bring you an episode featuring educator, Claire McGreevey and illustrator Chris Mould. Who discussed a comic and graphic novel project that Claire's been running in Rochdale. It's an absolutely amazing project. this is quite a long episode. We hear from teachers. We hear from Claire and Chris. We hear from children also about the project. So it was a really nice picture of all the excellent work that's been going on there. Claire is an advisory teacher for reading in Rochdale council's virtual school. Before this, she was a teacher and English lead. with over 18 years experience in education, she leads the Ooh UK LA reading for pleasure teachers group in Rochdale. Lots of talk about the kind of fundamental basics of reading for pleasure and where comics and graphic novels sit within that today, which is really interesting. She's also the founder and director of the annual Rochdale children's literature festival. So many strings to her bow and they all come together in this amazing project that we're talking about today. She's passionate about giving young children, young people opportunities to express their voice and creativity through writing for pleasure. And as we were going to find out today in 2024, she's championed this through an innovative comic project involving schools across Rochdale. Re-imagining the untold stories of historic Rochdale town hall. And to do that. She very wisely brought on the amazingly talented. Chris Mould. Whose work? I'm sure you're aware of. Chris was born and raised in west Yorkshire where he lives with his family. He's one of 20 studio artists at the prestigious Dean Clough, mills arts and business complex. his work ranges from children's publishing to theater and film. And he's produced a long back list of children's titles, theater, posters, editorial cartoons for major newspapers and character development work for animated features. He exhibits his work regularly. so have a look out onto his website. See what's coming up near you. and particularly used his children's illustration skills to great benefit of the children and Rochdale in this project. This is a really fascinating combination of looking at reading and writing together. This project really has so many elements that sit very close to my heart as a focus on reading for pleasure. On graphic novels, you know, I love. reading role models as well, the benefits of school connecting with public libraries, that community approach to reading for pleasure and improving reading outcomes. Something very close to my heart. Very much the foundation of the work that I do at the national literacy trust as well. So it was really fantastic to hear, not just from Chris and Claire, but also from the teachers and children from participating schools. Here's what they had to say.

Speaker:

Hello, Chris and Claire. Welcome to Comic Boom.

Speaker 3:

Hello. Nice to be here, Lucy.

Speaker:

Thank you so much for coming onto the show. I'm going to start with my usual question, and I'm going to go to Claire first. First of all, Claire, I don't actually know, are you a comics reader yourself?

Speaker 3:

Yes, I am a comics reader and avid reader as a child, and then sort of had a bit of a kind of a desert spell. And then suddenly, just yeah just got hooked again. I think actually during COVID 2021 was when I started really getting interested in comics again. and that started with the kids really, just needed something that was going to be fun, um, that we could all sort of like enjoy together. And, so I started buying lots of, of graphic novels for class and yeah, it all went from there.

Speaker:

and when you were younger, if I unpick that journey a little bit, what sort of things did you start off reading in, in your reading diet growing up?

Speaker 3:

so I, I was very lucky as a kid. So my mom and dad didn't have much money, but, they always took me to the library and they always gave me pocket money. So I'd, you know, lived out in the sticks in Ireland. So he only ever went to the shop, felt like every Saturday. so I would have my 50p or whatever, and I would buy my sweets and I would always buy a comic. Um, and there wasn't much choice. There was. Bunty, which I absolutely loved, bought every week. and there was the Beano. So yeah, I, I, I read lots of those but yeah, the best thing was going to, to Bristol, in the summer holidays where my mom and dad's family lived and, I would go to the corner shop. And then there was a whole range. It was like Whizzer and Chips and Buster and the Dandy, Mandy Judy. It was like a kind of a golden age, I think in the eighties and the early nineties for comics.

Speaker:

And have you branched out your reading into now that you've got back into and you started with children's reading children's titles, have you started to read more adult comics as well, or are you very much entrenched in the children's literature side, which is also for adults as well. I'm absolutely a massive fan of reading children's literature so no judgment whatsoever.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I think. I, I am sort of entrenched in, in what the kids are reading, but as you say, I'm, I'm enjoying it myself as well. so yeah. Any

Speaker:

shout outs for particular favorites at the moment?

Speaker 3:

Ooh, I'm really enjoying, City of Dragons. So yeah. Um, I bought it actually for, a friend of mine's son and he was raving about it. So I said, all right, I'll give this a go too and get it for him. my class. and yeah, it's, it's, it's a really, really good book. Lots of drama, lots of action. And, I like the fact it's set in Hong Kong as well. Yeah. And Vivian

Speaker:

Truong, the illustrator has been on the podcast. You can listen to her episode. So if anyone's interested, yeah, I really love those books. I feel really immersed in the story when I, when I'm reading those, Chris interested, how about you? Are you a comics reader?

Speaker 2:

Uh, yes, yes, I am. my history of, of that is that, we never had books in the house when I was a young kid, or my parents didn't read, didn't read with my parents. And then, I confessed this little story to Claire the other day, which was that we have the Beano in common, myself and Claire, because we, we both sort of talked about the Beano the other day. And, My introduction to that was that I had a friend at school who was a bit, wayward, who my parents were not really that keen on, and he, he stole me a copy of the Beano from our newsagent by sliding an extra copy under his and then just paying for his, and then when we came out of the shop, he said, there you go, and I was really shocked that he'd taken this copy and given it to me, and I was like, what, like, what is this anyway, you know, but that, from then I started to read it, And I used to get it every week, by the way, I didn't steal it every week. but then I used to get, the annuals for Christmas. and Claire also mentioned things like Whizzer and chips and dandy and things. So, so that was one time when, when I did, kind of get hold of these things. And I guess it just, you Went from there really and, and, and developed, um, and when I was, when I was 16, I went to art school and needless to say, I kept that interest in, uh, you know, what was out there. I never really liked the, the Marvel sort of DC comic superhero thing. It just didn't, it just didn't sit with me. Right. I didn't like the story content. The narrative wasn't for me and I've never really liked the. The sort of heavy flat color thing that you get on the comic panels. So I, I guess I was always looking for something else. But one thing I did find was, Maus by Art Spiegelman.

Speaker:

Yeah.

Speaker 2:

Which is, if anybody knows that or doesn't know that, um, it's the, it's the sort of story of the, the holocaust through, uh, one particular, chap's experience. The story's told by, this man's telling his, his son about his experiences when he was in a prison camp, during the second world war as, you know, it's a Jewish family and they're sort of relating the tale. And, I really loved how they'd done it because the, all the Jewish people in the story were represented as mice, and the, all the Nazi soldiers were cats, so I, I really liked that device for, it was almost like bringing a really hard story to you in a way, in a way that almost, softened it, so that you could soak it up as a, as a, uh, as a concept, if you like. think from there I sort of ventured out and found whatever I could really.

Speaker 3:

I was just thinking Chris, that that's, that's the beauty of, graphic novels. I think it's like they bring this real complexity of life. to children. that would be quite hard, I think, to get across in a novel or a non fiction book. Just thinking back to City of Dragons where, the main character's father dies in the, in the beginning. And it's so, it's, it's like a picture speaks a thousand words, and it, and it really brings to life that grief and sorrow. Like, I don't think any, a written version would have been able to do that the same.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, that's, that's, that's a, I think that's a really good call because you're, you're in such a, a different, zone when, when you can mix up the whole image and text thing. And, you know, I, I always say if I'm, I, if I'm giving people advice on, on putting these things together, I always say, if you can't, if you can't draw it, say it. If you can't say it, draw it, you know, and, and go in and outta that idea. And, and I think one helps the other.

Speaker:

Absolutely, and in, somewhere along the line. In that process, there's also a space I feel more space for the reader to bring themselves to and their own interpretation and their own, their own thoughts about what they're seeing in a way that it feels for me as a reader, it feels easier to do that than when I'm reading Prose. Obviously you can have kind of an interpretation of, of a novel, but. When I'm reading a comic, I always feel like I'm bringing an interpretation of every single panel, you know, not just the overall story.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think, I think that whole thing of, I always try and, have that discussion whenever this comes up about, learning to read imagery, because I think it's a very different thing, you know, like reading words. It's very different experience to just reading pictures and it's interesting having the two. It's also really interesting to have, you know, if you get old, I, I really like the graphic novels where they're completely wordless. Yeah,

Speaker:

me too. And,

Speaker 2:

and, and you're, you're entirely reliant on what you're seeing. And, and I always say you, what you've got to do with those things is, is be careful. You don't just sort of float past everything. You've got to learn to pace your reading in the same way that you do. With prose and, and, and actually understanding to look at images and looking from one scene to another and understanding the sequence and seeing where things are important when you, when you do things like you scale and zoom in and out and all those, those things and understanding how that works is, it's a sort of new way to read really.

Speaker:

Yeah, I've actually just been I've been was doing some reading this weekend that I had this kind of, moment of realization behind many other people who've had this realization a lot earlier. I'm not claiming this is a new thought, but it just came to me. It's like, um, uh, oh, drawing is. is part of visual literacy. And when we talk about visual literacy in schools, we're talking about reading pictures, but I have never before looked at the flip side of that because I'm someone that I enjoy drawing and, you know, in my, I've always been a drawer, but I've never thought of how it fits in with visual literacy and, there's kind of a relationship also with children's writing, especially in the early development of writing. I just think it's a really rich seam that I personally have never mined before in my thinking.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's, it's a whole, it's a whole sort of added thing to the way that, you know, kids can work in a classroom. One of the things that I Got them to do when, when we, um, when we worked with all the schools recently was, to get them to, to do what I, I always say I don't really separate words and pictures. So I draw and write at the same time. If you get a load of my sketchbooks, it's full of, you know, there's a lot of imagery in there, obviously, but I, I write whilst I'm drawing and sometimes I just put words down and sometimes I can even just put letters down just because I like playing around with the shapes and mixing it all up like that. Hopefully gives them a completely different perspective on, on imagery, but also on words as well.

Speaker:

Yeah, it's fascinating. We're going to talk a little bit more specifically about the project that you. Claire and Chris, you've both come together to kind of collaborate on. Claire, can you tell us a little bit about the background to where the idea for the project came from and its aims just to sort of set the scene for us before we dig into a little bit more detail around how it worked and what its impact's been?

Speaker 3:

Yep, absolutely. So I've been a teacher for, quite a long time now, but started working in Rochdale back in 2018. And, I got really, really interested in promoting reading for pleasure and choice around reading, discovered Teresa Kremen's work, which is amazing, and became an, uh, an open university. reading for pleasure leader in, in Rochdale. so yeah, so I was really, really focused on, you know, bringing those research principles into my, my classroom. and then lockdown happened. and as I was saying before, we, you know, we really bonded with my class when we all came back together over graphic novels, which are. Just bought copious amounts of, there's, as they say, there's a graphic novel for everybody. And, um, there's a little girl who had severe hearing impairment in the class. So, you know, El Deafo was an absolute revelation to her. Yeah. and, and not only that, all her friends read it as well. So obviously understood, had that, you know, real empathy for her experience, but also it's, it's not just about that. It's about relationships and friends and being young. And, so everybody could identify with it, which was amazing. then my most recent class, there was a, a young Afghani girl, and I bought the Breadwinner, graphic novel of the Breadwinner, uh, by Deborah Ellis. And, and it was, it, it was just a way of her sort of tapping into her culture and sharing her. Her story really with the, with the rest of the class. so I just saw the effect of this, on the kids I was teaching. And I had a cared for child in my class as well at the time. And, he was very disengaged with reading. He had lots going on in his life. so I really. Wanted to kind of give him something to promote in class so, he took on the job of, of, looking after the book corner and, and the graphic novels that we were buying in and then eventually started choosing them. And he was a real football lad. And As a result, all those football boys started joining in with the reading. And of course, bad guys was the first thing to take off and then investigators. and it just, it just kind of ran itself. Then suddenly this graphic novel craze in class sort of was involving me, but wasn't about me having to run it. They were like, sorting out book swaps and, Chatting, any wet play time, whereas it used to be iPads all the time that they'd want to, to get out if they could. suddenly it was like, no, we want to sit around or sit under the table and read our graphic novels together and, and have a laugh. So it was, back in September, I took on the role at Rochdale, council as, an advisory teacher. Focusing on reading for children with social workers. So work as part of the virtual school. and the virtual school historically has always championed, cared for children. But since, 2021, the duties have extended to focusing on children with social workers. So I took on this role specifically to sort of support schools strategically, with improving. educational outcomes because, historically, you know, children with social workers, they face so many challenges, but developing that reading habit is absolutely essential. And they can go on to achieve even better than their peers with the right support. So I thought to myself, walking along the canal one rainy October day, and I just thought, well, why don't I just scale this up and take all this amazing. Graphic novel experience that I've had with, with children already in class, and then make this into a model for, for a pilot that, that schools can join in on. so I approached 10 schools and they've all said yes. Really committed teachers, and staff, who really wanted to give it a go, and see what a difference it made. Not only for those vulnerable children in class, they acknowledge that shining a light on these children was really important, but obviously they're really interested as well in that universality of it as well, that it's going to impact all children.

Speaker:

But that's the case, isn't it? So often the things that, we put in place for the most vulnerable children. The children with additional needs actually benefit everyone. They benefit the whole class once they're in place and when they've been invested in and set up properly. I see it time and time again. It's so valuable for all children. So I know one of the strands of the project was focused around, building community of readers through it, which is, you know, one of the central tenets of, the reading for pleasure approach in schools. I'm interested. You've outlined some of the things that you witnessed in your own classroom, but what did you see taking place in those pilot schools with regards to that community of reader element? And what, to what extent do you think it being comics and graphic novels was, was a key part of that versus if it had just been a sort of reading, a less focused reading for pleasure agenda?

Speaker 3:

so I think, yeah, I think, I think it was all about CPD actually first, um, in order to develop, those class communities. so just in terms of like the overview of the project, we initially, it was about getting really. Good quality CPD, for staff. so kind of Richard Ruddrick came along and, sort of gave an overview of, of graphic novels and his enthusiasm and passion for it was infectious, which was great for staff and really got them, you know, kind of. Yeah, really got them sort of aware of, of, of how valuable, graphic novels are. but then we had some CPD from John Biddle as well, and he really sort of, set the scene for that idea of community. through reading for pleasure in class and, um, he gave us some training, on, reading mentors and reading buddies and how to implement that. So that our most disadvantaged children then had somebody who they met up with once or twice a week and it was all about, it wasn't about reading skills or reading practice. It was about those children having the opportunity to show what comic they were reading or, or any other books that they were interested in. And then that adult would also share their interests, whether it be a newspaper or a fishing magazine or, you know, anything that they were reading at the time. So that, that started that kind of community, amongst the adults. and then, And then obviously the CPD from Helen Jones really built on that as well because we had, a session with her on writing graphic novels and, and how to do that together as a class. So, in classes, we'd seen that the children who were reading automatically intrinsically wanted to draw the characters that they were looking at in the, in the graphic novels and comics, but, and also were going home making their own as well. So that kind of, like, started building up a community, and lots of reports of, you know, book putting the post it notes on the books that, were the most liked, or creating graffiti walls with recommendations on. Our, our children were social workers, took on the role of the reading champions. So they were kind of like lead in that community, the experts in the class essentially, and, and leading those recommendations and seeking out books and, yeah, organizing the book swaps, et cetera. So yeah, it really took off in a sort of real organic sort of way.

Speaker:

I love what you're saying around the writing as well. That was definitely my experience as being a teacher that my class knew I was engaged with graphic novels and comics and that I enjoyed that. And so there was much like you described, kind of organic, it was our thing, you know, we enjoyed it together. And I also observed that, that children who wouldn't necessarily write for pleasure, more widely did want to make comics, did, did do that unprompted in their own time and come in and want to share them. And, national Literacy Trust released a research report, which I was one of the authors of, and we, we were asking children about their reading habits around comics. And we didn't actually ask them if they wrote comics or made comics, but in the open question boxes, they just wanted to tell us anyway. They're just like so keen. We couldn't ask about writing at all, but they couldn't help themselves. They're like, and I make comics.

Speaker 3:

Um, yeah,

Speaker:

there's something in that for me.

Speaker 3:

It's been amazing. Every school that we went into, we found children coming up saying, I've made this at home. One little girl had put the barcode on the back with the price. and yeah, it, it, um, I have some more actually that I got off, one of our teachers when we met yesterday who were desperate to show Chris, next time I see him what she's created. Brilliant.

Speaker:

I love that. I love that so much. And we are going to come on the talk in more detail about the writing aspects and the illustration and little bit later in the podcast. Thinking about the community element, I know that you involved public librarians as well. Again, something that's really close to my heart, linking schools and public libraries. can you explain a little bit more about how that's worked and what some of your learnings have been from, from that?

Speaker 3:

I think it goes back to that community aspect. And, you know, thinking back to my own childhood, how important that library was, in, in the heart of our community. and. I'm really wanting to champion those libraries because graphic novels are really expensive. And if our disadvantaged children or any child, buys them, they're not going to get many into the house, you know? And, We were really, really lucky that we got sponsorship from KPMG's, team and, and they gave us, money to fund Chris's visits, money for the CPD, but also some money for graphic novels for the classroom. But, You can never have enough. And it was really, really essential that, that the library came on board with this. And I think they, you know, Joanne and Michelle, the library team there are phenomenal. They do so much great work for, for Rochdale libraries. and they're always up for any project that, you know, supports community. And I think they could really see the benefit in this. I think they could see that it would reach, there's hard to reach families, through library visits, obviously facilitated by school where they bought in, lots and lots of new graphic novel stock, with the support of Richard as well. So Richard Rudrick met with us, because They, they said, this is an area actually that we don't know too much about. And, and they were a little bit, I suppose a little bit worried about what stock to buy. They weren't aware of, you know, you know, like the swear words and, you know, other aspects of graphic novels. weren't really sure where to start. So Richard was really key on that and said, well, these are, you know, key stage one, these are more for a key stage two, et cetera. So they really had something to kind of get the teeth in. And then they used quite a lot of their budget in order to get a range of graphic novels that then they could put into the libraries. and they spread them out across the borough so that the, the libraries nearest the schools participating would have a selection. But then through the year they would get, you know, that would get rotated as well. So that was always, you know, new stock for the children to go into. So part of the project with schools, um, go into the library on a regular basis. Some schools already did. There's one particular school who are right next to the library, like a stone's throw. So, you know, really lucky, um, but other schools, you know, they have made such an effort to, get the classes out walking, down the road to, to the library. And, it's starting that kind of, that learned behavior of going to the library, which, you know, we hope is going to continue. And another great thing as well is that the summer reading challenge through our local library is going to be targeted on these 10 schools at first. So they're going to get early access to all the folders and stickers and promos for the summer reading challenge to get them excited about it. before it's actually launched on the 7th of July. So what we're going to do is. Track those children through the summer and see, the legacy of, of the project and how much, you know, they continue to go to the library reading in their own

Speaker:

time and reading in their own time.

Speaker 3:

Exactly. But now we've got them hooked on those graphic novels. I don't think it's going to be. you know, an uphill struggle with that.

Speaker:

It's so interesting how often, when I asked that question at the start of the podcast, how often people do reference the collections of comics that were in their library, the graphic novels they were able to access, because as you say, they are so expensive and it is something that, you know, often they're series of comics as well, and you want the next one and the next one. And, you know, like you say, it is an expensive thing to keep up with. So yeah, the public library. It's such a brilliant service to be able to link into and fantastic that you've been able to get the CPD in there as well and the support to, to ride this wave of popularity. I just think it's brilliantly linked up.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it makes so much sense of the sort of high production values that you get on graphic novels with, you know, you need a sort of big page count because there's a lot of artwork in there. You sometimes get quite big formats to, to display that. So they're, they're things that take a long time to produce and, and they're kind of almost,, I guess from a publishing point of view, they're financially, a little bit problematic, but the whole thing of having them in that space where people can come along and enjoy them, put them back and somebody else can come along and do the same thing. And normally those kids wouldn't have the access to those things. It's just a perfect marrying of. purpose, of library really with, you know, with those young people.

Speaker:

Yeah, I agree. And I think I've, I've referenced this before in the podcast, but there is, again, if, if there's any schools listening, thinking, you know, that it is, it is really expensive to get them into our, our classrooms, to get graphic novels into our own school library and school classrooms. Although the outlay is often slightly more expensive per book, the, per borrow rate because they just never on the shelves. The actual amount of reading that they get is, it actually makes them really cost effective. once you factor in just how well used they're going to be versus something that, you know, that just, this sits on the shelf and it maybe isn't, is only taken out a couple of times a year. And that's.

Speaker 3:

That was some of the great feedback that we've been getting from, staff in schools. Chris, deputy head at Middleton Parish has said, you know, all the teachers have said that is the box that is constantly empty in their school book corner, and in their library there, they are out all the time. So they, they will get used tenfold. They're swapping between classes as well to keep that kind of fresh flow going, which is fabulous.

We're not going to hear a little bit from some of the teachers involved in the project. Firstly, teacher from Middleton parish, church school, and then a teacher from Spotland school. You share some of their reflections on the process and the impact it's had for their children.

Speaker:

Chris, I'm really interested to hear in how you got involved in this project, how the collaboration came about, and just a bit of an overview about the graphic novel creation side.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, sure. So last year Claire asked me along to Rochdale Festival and we had a really great afternoon. one Saturday doing my usual, uh, session where I pre, present my work to people using the, usually using a PowerPoint file, like, showing my sketchbook, images as well as my, my finished, book stuff, showing how I do character development and drawing on Flip chart and having a bit of fun and, just, getting my work in life across to people, I guess. And that, that was a really nice session. And then, um, self and Claire got, um, I guess, I guess to know each other a bit. And then she approached after she had that initial idea about, you know, would I like to be involved and, and how would I like to be involved? So it, it, it grew out of there really. And to start with, I don't think either of us really knew exactly what it was going to be. Claire's laughing

Speaker 3:

now. Yeah,

Speaker 2:

again,

Speaker 3:

again, that, that word organic comes to mind. Chris, that's a good way to describe

Speaker:

it.

Speaker 3:

It really was though it was, you know, I knew that I really wanted to work with Chris again. So, the festival is something that I set up with my OU group back in 2019. And that's all about community and exposing, children and families in our community to the best quality illustrators, authors, poets, et cetera. And Chris came along and just did. The most wonderful presentation to those families. And again, we had so much feedback and we had social media with children showing, you know, the iron men and the, the illustrations that they created as a result of, Chris's, presentation. So straight away, I was like, Hmm, we need to, we need to do something more in Rochdale together. and then really just coincided with the refurbishment and reopening of, Rochdale's Jewel in the Crown, which is the Town Hall, which is just the most fabulous Victorian building. People

Speaker:

listening should immediately Google, which is what I did when I first spoke to Claire, and it's fancy, very fancy.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, you'll think you're looking at something in the middle of Prague or something when you see those images. Because it's just to stand inside that bill and I knew that building from years ago because I used to go to Rochdale is not far from me and I used to go to Rochdale quite a lot in the past. And, um, and I knew the building from the outside, but to actually stand in there and see. What they've done with it and how they've turned it around and brought it back to life is it's an astonishing place to be and I think for those children locally to be able to go and stand in there and be absolutely inspired in there It's such a perfect kind of thought of Claire's to sort of have us in that space where they could really get inspired by just by what's around them and it's it's Absolutely awe inspiring

Speaker 3:

I think it really lends itself to a comic or graphic novel style story as well, because it's, it, it's got everything you could possibly want as a, you know, for a child's imagination that could come to life. You've got your, your gargoyles and your grotesque at the front, but then inside you've got real strange curiosities, you know, snakes, spiders. Coiled around light fittings and owls sort of emerging out of the, the brick work. And upstairs we, we found, um, a masked kind of avenger face, didn't we, Chris? On a, a large way in the Great Hall, which was, yeah, just brilliant kind of like the mascot of the, the hall, project Really.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and it's, I think it was, it was really interesting how all that, that idea for what we did came to life because the thing was, you know, when you go in there and you feel, you really feel, all that history around here is incredible. And you see, you know, there's artifacts from the past and obviously the building itself, and you, you get a real feel for, um, for what's gone before, but, but the whole idea of, you know, Looking at all these beautiful carvings you know, gargoyles and things and thinking actually, you know, we, uh, we said, you know, what, what at night, you know, when everybody's gone to bed and the lights go out, what, where do these creatures go and when they come to life, when nobody's watching, you know, that was the whole thought behind it was what, what happens in here when nobody's looking, you know, and that, that was the sort of spark we had to give, you know, To the kids, I think, if you wanted it in a, a one liner sort of thing. What do these These things actually do at night, you know, where do they go and what's their story, you know,

Speaker:

they've had this kind of this, this really rich, inspiring experience of visiting the town hall and they've, got this kind of hook of an idea. And then, then what happens? Are the children going off writing independently? Is that done within a workshop structure? How are they then producing their pieces, I guess? How did you approach that kind of creation?

Speaker 2:

so, between, myself and Claire, and a few others, we, we, we worked out a plan for, I'm saying that I didn't work out the plan, really. I'm not going to claim that, I shouldn't be., Um, first of all, they had the visit itself to the Town Hall, individually of schools. And then there was a follow up visit from me to them in their school, when I did, again, just a short presentation so that they could get a feel for where I came from and what I did. And then we had some sessions where we looked at how they might develop their story ideas. And how they might marry some imagery with what they were thinking and what sort of things they might draw and what they might take as inspiration and that sort of thing. And they built from there really.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, and it was, we kind of used all that excitement from the visits. So I suppose that the children and the teachers were prepped before they went to the town hall. So the idea was, you know, we're collaborating on this graphic novel with Chris about the town hall. Um. Chris had created this amazing trail. so it, so it leads you through the various rooms. and each trail has an architectural sort of shot of the room, but then kind of gargoyles and footprints like weaved through. And then he'd give a little signposts on things to look out for. So where's this world or, can you See something that represents the, you know, the season of summer, et cetera. so the children had like these kind of exciting like little things to go on. but then they would, they had the scope then to, you know, have a look around and discover dragons and griffins and things like that and anything that, that took their fancy. so they had a tour of the whole town hall, but then they came back to a particular zone. So we Separated into 10 sections for 10 schools. So each school took an area that they then decided to develop. So the whole premise was, that they would develop an untold story of that particular room. and what might happen in that story or where a creature in that room might go, et cetera. so they had that in their head. They did the visit and then they came back and then they wrote just kind of the, you know, the bones of a plan. and they sent that to Chris and then they had to think about what kinds of things that they wanted Chris to, to help them to draw and to kind of flesh out, in terms of their storyline when, when Chris went in. so you. I mean, you spent lots of time showing them, um, unicorns, uh, dragons, lions, um, and then really effective sort of use of close up shots, and, and far away shots and that kind of whole cinematic aspect of, of comics as well, Chris, didn't you?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it was that idea of, sequencing imagery so that when you, when you move from one panel as it were to another, you're thinking about why you're doing it, what you're doing it for and what purpose it serves and how, and how it's effective and that kind of thing. So it's, it's back to that thing of reading imagery, I guess, and starting to understand, you know, doing various. versions of a scene or, or various images that go with the scene or a, narrative. and, and looking at how he can be effective alongside a text or even without a text, you know.

Speaker:

And it's really interesting there. And that's links back to what we were talking about earlier about how the creation side supports the reading of the images as well, because you, once you've explored that yourself as a creator, I think you look back at what other people have created in a different way.

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. Yeah. Totally symbiotic, because I think the children were, when they knew that they had to, well, they were, you know, collaborating on this graphic novel, they were going back to the graphic novels that they had in class and really scrutinizing them to understand how these pictures flowed and worked together as a sequence.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, It's a really great experience, I think, for them to be in that place where they're actually creating it, and then they're going back and looking at how other people do it. It's a great way to get your head around it, and probably quite inspiring to do more, I'd imagine.

Speaker:

Yeah. And how important do you think having that real life, real finished product that everyone's aiming for at the end? Do you think that that was a really important driver for the children's enthusiasm as well?

Speaker 2:

I think you're, you're putting them in that place where, it takes their, Their creativity to another level really you know, they're looking at an end products. They're looking at how, you know, if they, a lot of what I talk about when I go into schools and work with children is that, you know, I always say the first image on my, uh, My PowerPoint is a little image of me when I was at school with my little bow tie on and I, and my, my hair all over the place. And, uh, you know, and, and, and I, I sort of put that there to, to say, uh, you know, I always say, well, if I can do this, you can do this. And I, I struggled at school. I really did struggle at school a lot, and I, I even struggled when I went to art school, but I made sense of it in the end and I, and I sort of found what I loved and, and, and I think being able to say to them, you know, when we enjoy these things, these products, these books and these graphic novels, there's that other element of it, which is, you know, this is somebody's work in life, you know, when people create stories and they create artwork and they marry the things together, that's, that can be some somebody's, not only somebody's, Working life, but it can be completely normal way to live and work, which was always what I was told wasn't that, you know, I was never going to get a job as an artist and I had to think about some other subjects because I had to think seriously about what I was going to do. So putting them in that place where they can say, look, you know, here's this product. Here's the, you know, this is, this is what illustrators and writers do. They produce this thing and it goes out there and then people go and buy it. And that's their working way of life. So it introduces them to that whole. Way of thinking, you know, creative careers are massively important and, and it's, it's another way to, to get them to think about that.

Speaker 3:

And that's, you know, a massive part of this project is about developing, readers for life, especially focusing on our, our children with social workers, but also, you know, that aspirational aspect of it, developing self confidence and actually seeing yourself. You know, your perspective that you are a reader and, and you are a writer and that's what you do. Um, and I think the, the opportunity to actually, you know, join forces with an acclaimed author illustrator, um, So just Chris, and, and actually know that this is something about your town as well, is really aspirational. Um, This is going to have a legacy. It's not, it's not something that's just kind of going to have a launch and then disappears. It's something that we can give to the town hall as something to put in their gift shop that people will come back to again and again. I think that's really powerful for them.

Just going to interrupt my chat. Chat with. Claire and Chris to hear from some of the children at Spotland school who talk about graphic novels, why they like them? Obviously they're in a busy school, their children they're shuffling around that. What they're saying comes through really clearly. And it's just so important. I think to hear. The impact from the children themselves talking about what they've enjoyed about the project and how it's affected them. And then at the end of this will. Rejoin. A teacher from Middleton parish church school as well. For some final reflections, before we go back and speak to Chris and Claire again.

Speaker:

this seems so rooted in place and pride in, in Rochdale and the local area, and it must be integral to the project. What are your thoughts on that?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely. I think it's really, really good for, you know, smaller towns, especially like Rochdale that's in the shadow of Manchester, the big lights of the city, you know, and, and, and often people, you know, talk about things that are going on in Manchester. And actually there's so much, in Rochdale and in terms of arts and culture, and it's really just, you know, having that sense of town pride there are. Things to, be really proud of in this area, but I think you could take that and you could replicate that in other towns and all of them in Bury and Bolton because each of those towns do have a really rich heritage and history.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's, it's, it's about taking a closer look, at where you are and, digging into the past a bit and understanding, you know, if you look at a lot of our, you know, northern towns and cities, we're, we're massively about, you know, that, that the textile industry and, all that successful stuff is really important. And it's something that can easily be. bypassed now, you know, when all those buildings are disappearing and all those mills become, you know, apartments and shopping centers and that sort of thing. I think you can, in a lot of ways, you can transfer it to, to anywhere and just sort of dig into what a place is and what it was. And have a bit of fun with it as well.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, definitely. And that idea of untold stories, I think that can be reproduced wherever you go. Every place is going to have an untold story that can be discovered or, you know, imagined by children.

Speaker:

Yeah, I completely agree. What are the things that you've learned from this project that other people could learn from?

Speaker 3:

I think it just, this project's kind of proved what I think we all know to be. Intrinsically right is that graphic novels and comics are for everybody and they are a huge motivator, for both reading and writing, and that kids will automatically want to, to go off and create their own. so the more that we get these into classes, the better. I think also that that reading choice is key. and also personal writing preferences are key as well and that we need to give children as many opportunities as we can to, to write about what's meaningful to them and combine it with art and creativity as well.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and I think the thing for me is that when, when we reflect on this, and as we were going through it and looking at the relevance of. You know, the whole graphic novel thing. The world has changed so much. We're so much more visual now in everything that we do, every aspect of what we do. And I always say that, you know, whenever these children sit down when they're at home or when they're at school, they're under a lot of pressure. There's a lot going on. you know, things like phones and iPads and there's, there's always one or two screens on the go at once and everything is so much more visual. And I think if we're, if we're going to reinvent things and, and, and relook at what is relevant, all of this stuff fits in a lot more now, to, to our very visual, world. And this question comes up a lot among, publishing people about illustrations in adult books and that we don't really do that, we don't have that. And it almost re addresses that question of, Do we rethink all that? Because we are so much more visual now. How do we feel about illustrations in what we would term, you know, adult fiction or adult books. So I think there's a whole, there's a very sort of big reflective thought there for me about all of this stuff and its relevance to now.

Speaker:

Yeah, yeah, that's really really interesting. What are the plans for the future? For the future for this project. It's not done yet. what comes next, Claire?

Speaker 3:

Well, we did, we did lots and lots of, pre project, surveys and, interviews and collected data. So, we're coming up to the end point now where schools are going to submit. hard data in terms of summer assessments, but also, we're going back to the child surveys, the parents, carer surveys, and the teacher surveys. and we've had some of that data come back. I'm starting to see it drip through. some really, really lovely teacher quotes came through today. So one of our, our children with social workers now they've said has continued to get their book out at all times, even sitting and reading at break times and is talking about their books more to, to other children and adults. and parent quotes of saying that they, they read so much more now and that she's writing more at home, drawing more stories and characters. So, Anecdotally, and the evidence that's coming through has shown this to be a really, really positive, experience for, for those children, but also obviously for, for the wider cohorts as well. So it's really about taking that and then thinking what next then? so I'm interested in following these particular cohorts as they. They go into, year five and year six because the project was, for year four and five children, but I'm also really interested in expanding it to high schools as well because, know that children with social workers and cared for children really do. you know, face a lot of challenges as soon as they go into high school. So just thinking that if we can somehow, you know, breach, that gap with graphic novels and, and kind of harness that momentum. that would be a really positive kind of future for the project.

Speaker:

That would be brilliant. well, I mean, not only are you getting positive feedback, but just, just me sitting here and listening to it has been a positive experience. Honestly, my face hurts. I've been smiling so much. My heart feels full. Um, it's such an amazing, amazing piece of work and just so integrated and so well thought out. I just, yeah. Huge congratulations on it.

Speaker 3:

Oh, thanks Lucy. Thanks Lucy.

Speaker 2:

Oh, thank you.

Speaker:

So to the final, final thing that we, end the podcast on each time is a book recommendation. If we were to add one comic or book about comics or illustrated text to our To Be Read piles tomorrow, what would you recommend we read?

Speaker 2:

Ooh. Well, do you know what? I've got something on the desk in front of me that I was, that I've been looking at, and it is, it's a guy called John McNaught, that's M small, C-N-A-U-G-H-T. And and I just love his work'cause he, he'd done a few graphic novels for, no Brow Press and they do beautiful books. Yeah. He is, when I talked about that sort of thing of, oh, not really getting on with the Marvel and superhero stuff. And, and I prefer something a bit more, you know, gentler and contemplative and a little bit off the, off the wall. And he does, he's got this fabulous way. The one I've got in front of me is called Kingdom. And um, it's just this family going off, for a sort of weekend, uh, on the coast. And it's the whole, it's just very, all the visuals are very peaceful and reflective. And it's all, it's just such a great experience to sit and look through it. You know, it's quite, it's very gentle, but it's, but it's a very peaceful experience reading it, and I love looking at those things. and I love how the whole graphic novel thing has gone very, you know, away from the obvious stuff and, and started to really venture out, and it's a really good example of it. So I'd say, I'd say that.

Speaker:

Thank you for that one. that is a great recommendation. Claire, what about you?

Speaker 3:

I'd have to say, Anne Frank's Diary, the, the graphic adaptation. Um,

Speaker:

I didn't know there was a graphic adaptation.

Speaker 3:

It's, it's just absolutely fabulous. It was a book that, when I was in class last year, some of my children just got so absorbed into it. And I think The warmth of the pictures and the colors really sort of speak about Anne's, um, wit and, and, and sense of fun and just this kind of universality of being a teenager, you know, in extraordinary and awful circumstances. But she is still going through the same sort of experiences as, as any other kid. And, and it interweaves through the, the. graphics elements of her diary, but also, you know, little thought bubbles of, uh, of different things. And I just absolutely adore it.

Speaker:

That's a brilliant recommendation. I normally do my recommendation afterwards in the end bit of the podcast, but I'm going to add mine in here because it kind of links, I think, to that, although I've not read it, but I've just been reading No Surrender by the Rickard Sisters, which is an adaptation. It's about the suffragette movement. And for me, it really, It brought history to life in a way that I don't think it, reading a prose book about that topic would have, in that the people felt real and like me and to have that kind of connection across history, it's just really powerful when you feel that. Um, yeah,

Speaker 3:

Wells a new one from my list now. Thank you, Lucy That's a good one.

Speaker:

but thank you so much both of you for coming onto the podcast today. It's been an absolute pleasure. I have loved hearing about this project, and I definitely want to, buy a copy of the, finished graphic novel, so when it's in the town hall. Claire, would you, would you let me send you some money? Sorry. I can buy a copy. No money

Speaker 3:

did complimentary. Lucy. It's our pleasure.

Speaker:

delighted to have a copy on my shelf. And to share it, as well. So yeah, thank you so much for coming on. It's been brilliant to hear about your work. Thanks so much. Thank you.

Speaker 2:

Thank you

I think all I can say about what we've heard on this episode is wow. I mean, it's fantastic to see how comics can provide a hook to unite a whole community around reading. Huge. Congratulations to Claire for masterminding, the whole thing, and Chris to really bring your life. The ambitions children, then they're drawing their artwork to help them create their comics I'll be definitely keeping an eye out for both the finished graphic novel, and also about final impact evaluation, which having heard from everyone involved throughout the creation of this episode. I've no doubt. The impact report is going to be hugely positive and something that people will be able to really pull out learnings from and apply them in their own communities. You had my recommendation there in that episode? No surrender by the Ricard sisters, I should say is probably most suitable for a 12 plus audience, I would say. So key stage three and above here in England. but right through to adults, I enjoyed it in its own. Right. Really fascinating reads. And I had the pleasure of speaking to the Ricard sisters about their work recently, too. For a future episode. So if you do want to get ahead of the guests on the podcast, Um, explore some of their work before you listen to their episode, then I definitely recommend that they also have produced, uh, the graphic novel version of the ragged Trousered philanthropists. That's hard to say. I absolutely loved seeing the history when brought to life in No Surrender. Really interesting and very specific again, really regional story about the suffragette movement in the Lancashire mills, which is a really fascinating part of it that I hadn't been aware of before. This week for my sponsorship focus, spotlights on resources. I'm getting at highlight the ALCS Shakespeare resources. they originally created them to mark the sheikhs. Shakespeare's 400th anniversary and they'll device by teachers for upper key stage two. So if you're not in England, that is. nine to 11 year olds. And key stage three 12 plus. So this copyright education program brings fresh light into the teaching of what many students considered to be a difficult subject. And increases their enjoyment of the Bard's work through lively, creative writing, and group activities. it was introduces them to the concepts of copyright and. Plagiarism is free to download and follow the national curriculum and contains handy teacher resources like quiz and student activities. I thought it was really interesting. There was some really nice. Drama and oracy activities in there as well. So it's not just the quizzes. There's some really nice interactive lesson plans, which might be worth checking out if you're working on Shakespeare and looking for something a bit different. I know Shakespeare can often be done at the end of. And the key stage two for the year six is outgoing year six is, so definitely worth checking out, if you're looking for a few more. Interactive activities. That's it from comic boom this week. Thank you for listening as always the best way that you can support the podcast is by sharing it with your colleagues, getting them to social media. Giving me some retweet sharing, Instagram stories. I'd love all that. Also love to hear from you. So please do. Email, get in contact on any of the social media platforms that the podcast is on. You can find me on Twitter on at Lucy underscore Braidley and the podcast on Instagram at comic underscore. Boom. Underscore podcast. and you can find all of those details in the show notes, along with the details of our guests today, any of their recommendations. And a link to the resources for ALCS that I've just highlighted. So all of that information is now in the show notes. Check it out. I've got a great couple of guests on the, for the next episode, I will keep you in suspense about who they are, but it is a creative duo whose work I haven't really, really admired since their first book came out. So very excited about that one, but that's it for this week, you've been listening to comic boom, which is hosted and produced by me, Lucy Starbuck, Braidley. Thanks for listening.