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News Our Big Read winners announced at University prizegiving

The winners of this year's Our Big Read have been announced following a creative Masterclass held at Staffordshire University.

Helen Norman, from Higher Horizons and Professor David Hawkins with Our Big Read prizewinners.
Image: Helen Norman, from Higher Horizons and Professor David Hawkins with Our Big Read prizewinners.

There are few things as important in life as reading and developing the ability to read at length. These sorts of projects help to encourage key life skills, and Staffordshire University is proud to be a part of that.

Professor David Hawkins, Dean of the School of Arts and Engineering

Jessica Walker, 13 from Excel Academy took top prize for her artwork inspired by Harry Potter. Year nine pupils from across the city created comic strips for the contest, aimed at boosting literacy in North Staffordshire and beyond.

Jessica said: “I chose Harry Potter as it’s a book I read a year ago but it’s stayed with me and I would say it’s my favourite book. I enjoy art and have chosen to study it as one of my GCSEs. The competition was fun and I enjoyed taking part. I didn’t think I’d win.”

The Sentinel and Staffordshire University joined forces for the fourth year running to give away thousands of free books to pupils.They received copies of The Big Comic Book of Brilliant Books, which features work by third year Cartoon and Comic Arts students from the university.

Higher Horizons+ NCOP, a government-funded initiative to raise young people’s aspirations, sponsored the scheme. The project was also backed by Newcastle-based engineering film KMF , whose apprentices delivered the books.

Many of the entrants attended a celebratory day at the university, which included creative writing and comic arts masterclasses plus a prize presentation to the overall winner and three highly commended entrants.

Highly commended prizes went to Taylor Wallbanks, aged 13, from Trentham Academy for her work inspired by Harry Potter, Samuel Stanyer, aged 14, from Excel Academy for his work inspired by The Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Caitlyn Everson, aged 13, also from Excel Academy, for her work inspired by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. All winners received book tokens and a framed certificate.

The youngsters were welcomed by Professor David Hawkins, Dean of Creative Arts and Engineering at Staffordshire University.

David said: “There are few things as important in life as reading and developing the ability to read at length. These sorts of projects help to encourage key life skills, and Staffordshire University is proud to be a part of that.”

The judging panel included Stoke-on-Trent-based children’s author and illustrator Kate Leake, David Feldman from Stoke Reads, Staffordshire University Cartoon and Comic Arts tutor Gareth Cowlin, cartoon and comic arts students Danielle Gayle and Daina Tuckwood plus Sentinel journalist Jenny Amphlett.

Martin Tideswell, Editor-in-Chief of The Sentinel, 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.”

The presentation event also included the official opening of an exhibition of the competition entries and student work which will be on public display in the Cadman foyer until the end of June.

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