“The students were really excited when we presented them with their brief. When you’re 14 or thereabouts, that’s when things really matter, and the belief that they can help inflame passions has made them produce their strongest work to date."
Gareth Cowlin, lecturer in Cartoon and Comic Arts
Every year nine pupil in Stoke-on-Trent is to be given a free book as part of a campaign to transform literacy standards and inspire a lifelong love of reading.
The comic anthology books are being created by students from Staffordshire University, which has teamed up with The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive for the fourth year running on the Our Big Read project.
This time the Higher Horizons+ NCOP project which is a government-funded initiative aiming to raise young people’s aspirations, is financially backing the scheme.
Final year students on the university’s BA (Hons) Cartoon and Comic Arts course have each been tasked with creating comic pages inspired by a book they loved as a child.
Gareth Cowlin, lecturer in Cartoon and Comic Arts, said: “The students were really excited when we presented them with their brief. When you’re 14 or thereabouts, that’s when things really matter, and the belief that they can help inflame passions has made them produce their strongest work to date.
“They want to do their best, they care about the source material - the books that have most inspired them - and want to do them justice while putting a fresh spin on them. We look forward to seeing the published book and getting feedback from the school pupils. Bring on volume two!”
The comic pages will be printed in an anthology and then given to every year nine pupil at every high school in Stoke-on-Trent.
Student Conan McPhee, aged 47, has based his work on Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome. He said: “I chose Three Men in a Boat because I really enjoyed it as a child. The book is more than 100 years old but it’s still very accessible to a modern audience.”
For the second year running the giveaway will tie in with a creative contest. After reading the book, pupils are invited to create their own comic page inspired by a favourite book. Entrants will have the chance to win a place on a creative masterclass at the university and see their entry displayed at an exhibition. There will also be an awards evening for shortlisted entrants.
Historically, Stoke-on-Trent has lagged behind national literacy levels, but projects such as Our Big Read are helping to bridge the gap.
It is hoped Our Big Read will spark an enthusiasm for reading in teenagers, and engage with youngsters who are more likely to read comics or graphic novels.
The Sentinel’s editor-in-chief, Martin Tideswell, said: “If we can help improve the life chances and raise the aspirations of children in the Potteries – and nurture a love of reading where there wasn’t one – then we’ve made a difference.And that’s what I believe The Sentinel and StokeonTrentLive are here to do.
“I’m delighted Staffordshire University and Higher Horizons+ are working with us on this project.”
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