Children’s Writing Fellow, Paul Howard has been visiting Special Education Schools and learning support units within Mid Ulster recently to share his passion about reading with some of the young people in the district.
The celebrated children’s author delivered an illustration and story workshop that aimed to promote visual literacy as an alternative, fun and accessible gateway into literature and help children, of all literacy levels, feel confident enough to engage with reading and use drawing as a springboard to create their own stories.
Paul was appointed to the post of Children’s Writing Fellow in January 2021 as part of Queen’s University and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s (ACNI) joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy programme, with support from Atlantic Philanthropies.
He is the third writer to take up the post and during his tenure will be visiting schools and educational settings across Northern Ireland.
In partnership with the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queens and Paul Howard, Mid Ulster District Council, through its Community Art Plan, offered local education providers the opportunity to take part in the author’s innovative and creative workshop.
Students were given the opportunity to use a structure and approach that supports language and literacy development. Each participating child also received their own copy of ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark’.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Córa Corry dropped into one of the workshops to see the results first-hand, and said: “I was delighted to see how well the pupils all engaged in the project and how easily Paul held their attention.
“They were very proud of themselves when they saw what they had been able to draw and they all loved receiving a signed copy of the book. I was particularly pleased that the workshop was held within a school setting.
“It’s not always possible for schools to access our venues, so to be able to bring the arts directly to children allows the Council’s arts programme to increase its diversity and inclusion across the district.”
One of the class teachers involved commented: “The boys and girls …really enjoyed their visit from Paul Howard and couldn’t wait to tell me all about it the following day!… [They] all said it was “really good”, that Paul was “very funny” and also “so kind and generous.
“Everyone enjoyed the “art about owls” and getting the chance to draw their very own owl which we hope to display in our classroom very soon!”
Paul Howard said “It’s been a privilege working within Mid-Ulster’s SEN schools and Learning Support Units. The young people have produced some incredible work through learning how to illustrate fiction covers.
“Their often surprising results have given me everything from three-eyed owls to busy beehives, all delivered with warm smiles, laughter and hugs.
“My reward was sharing in the delight that several pupils who, unknown to me, normally struggle to hold a pencil, managed to draw the most amazing owls as if they draw them every day.”