Pretty much every story we write recently has some reference to lockdown, and of course they should. The impact the last 12 months has had on our lives has been greater than we can imagine, but out of all the bad, comes good. It now seems more of our children are reading books, and more importantly, really loving the whole experience, especially when it’s shared with family and friends.

In last year’s Annual Literacy Survey, just short of 60,000 children and young people, aged 9 to 18 in the UK took part, and the findings were simple: Our kids love books and reading.

  • Children’s enjoyment of reading has increased during lockdown (from 47.8% pre-lockdown to 55.9% post-lockdown), having reached a 15-year low before lockdown
  • More than a quarter (27.6%) of children and young people say they are enjoying reading more during lockdown
  • A third (34.5%) of children and young people say they are reading more during lockdown

Children have turned to adventure, comedy, fantasy and real life stories during lockdown and have found joy in discovering books they’d never read before

  • Children are reading more fiction (genres: adventure, funny books, realistic stories and magical/fantasy), song lyrics, news, non-fiction, etc. with a real uplift in reading on screen, compared with before lockdown
  • Almost 1 in 2 (46.3%) children said that they had read new books during lockdown and 1 in 7 (14.1%) had re-read books they have at home

So, this is a perfect time to celebrate all that is good about reading, and the annual PONTYPRIDD CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL will be doing just that in May – albeit a little differently this year.

The festival is a chance for children and families to celebrate books of all kinds, to inspire budding new authors and to promote the enjoyment of reading, writing and storytelling with fun!This is a festival for little bookworms everywhere! (and grown-ups too!)

The festival (usually) takes place in the historic town of Pontypridd, although this year the backdrop is whatever you’d like to make it, your sitting room, kitchen or bedroom, it’s all virtual, so the choice is yours.

Here’s a look back at previous events……

We do want to mention the town itself. In a normal, pandemic free year, the festival would be celebrating the local community too, and they have a lot to be proud of in Pontypridd. There’s the town’s beautiful museum, a new library ​and a fantastic park, perfect for bookish adventures! Once we can move around freely, we would recommend a trip to the town (with your favourite book) and enjoy all they have on offer.

The festival usually has free entry, displays, props, music and activities as well as some ticketed events with authors, readings, masterclasses and Q&As. This year they have most of that, and we have to say, a very impressive line up of guest speakers.

SATURDAY 15th MAY
10.00am – STORYSMASH

Join Louby Lou for a fast paced, fun filled story making workshop all about SPACE! Create your own alien planets through drawing, games and role play, as we ‘smash out’ an abundance of imaginative ideas that will lead to your very own spacetastic story!

Ages 3-7 – JOIN HERE

11.30am – KATE PANKHURST – FANTASTICALLY GREAT WOMEN SCIENTISTS AND THEIR STORIES

Women have been responsible for many of the world’s most groundbreaking scientific discoveries. Join Kate Pankhurst, descendent of Suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, as she tells the stories of some incredible female scientists whose hard work and persistence changed our understanding of science, and transformed people’s ideas of what women can do.

Ages 7-12 – JOIN HERE 

12.30pm – LESLEY PARR – THE VALLEY OF LOST SECRETS

The Valley of Lost Secrets is Lesley Parr’s stunning debut novel. Released in January this year it was immediately picked as Waterstones’ Children’s Book of the Month. The story centres on a lonely evacuee and a spooky discovery in a Welsh village in September 1939. With a hidden clue to unlock at the end giving readers their own mystery to solve, this is a future classic full of adventure, secrets and heart. Lesley will be talking to Scott Evans, host of The Reader Teacher.

Ages 9-12 – JOIN HERE 

2.00pm – DAVID BADDIEL – FUTURE FRIEND

Accomplished author, comedian and screenwriter David Baddiel talks to BBC Wales and CBBC presenter Alex Humphreys about his new out-of-this-world novel. Future Friend is a terrifically entertaining time-slip adventure that combines action, laugh-out-loud humour and the importance of friendship in a story that imagines what it might be like if your best friend came from the future. Delivering all the classic ingredients of David’s bestselling fiction, in a filmic wish-fulfilment fantasy that will appeal to children everywhere, Future Friend is an epic comic adventure of time travel, talking animals and two best friends who work together to save the future.

Ages 7-11 – JOIN HERE

4.00pm – CHILDREN’S LAUREATE WALES, ELOISE WILLIAMS – WRITERS WORKSHOP

A young writers workshop with Eloise Williams, Children’s Laureate, Wales. 

Oh no! You are going to be sent to Witch Point, a cursed town where strange and creepy things happen. Luckily you are allowed to take five objects in your suitcase and they have magic hidden inside them. What will you take with you and what magic will they bring? Only you can decide! A fun workshop for budding young writers based on Eloise Williams’ latest book Wilde.

Ages 8-12 – JOIN HERE 

SUNDAY 16TH MAY

10.00am – PIRATES ADVENTURE!

Pull up the anchor, hoist the sails and get ready to shiver your timbers! Join Captain Smelly Socks as she heads to treasure island, in search of her missing treasure! This interactive story is filled with role play, physical movement and a whole heap of swashbuckling fun!

Ages 8 and under – JOIN HERE 

11.00am – THE MAB WITH MATT BROWN AND HANAN ISSA

The Mab is a collection of eleven epic Welsh stories from the Mabinogion, beautifully illustrated and retold for young people. These are the earliest prose stories of Britain and have been hugely influential on storytelling across Europe.The stories in the Mab are strange and funny and thrilling. They speak of a time when the gates between the Real World and the Otherworld were occasionally left open and sometimes, just sometimes, it was possible to step through. A team of fantastic, award-winning authors bring the stories to life – and we’re joined by two – Matt Brown and Hanan Issa. They’ll be giving a sneak peak of their stories too, never heard before in public.

Ages 7+ – JOIN HERE 

12.00pm – MAKE A BOOK WITH REBECCA HARRY

Join artist Rebecca Harry as she shows you how to make a fantastic book of your own, inspired by her latest illustrated book Flower Girl written by Lucy Owen. Rebecca has illustrated over 40 books for children including Board Books and Picture Books. This month she celebrates the release of Flower Girl, an illustrated middle grade reading book written by Lucy Owen.

To take part you’ll need: plain paper, coloured paper, scissors, leaves, ferns and petals/flowers from the garden, lolly sticks, glue, colouring in pens or paint!

Ages 5-10 – JOIN HERE 

1.00pm – LAURA CORYTON – SPEAK UP!

Don’t just read about inspiring women: become one! Speak Up! Is an empowering book to inspire a whole new generation of rebel girls. Speaking up can be difficult, but did you know just how powerful your own voice can be? Written by Laura Coryton, who led the international campaign against tampon tax, Speak Up! explores what it means to stand up for what you believe in on both a public and personal level. Laura tackles subjects like feminism, consent, online bullying and self-confidence in a meaningful but accessible and entertaining way.

Ages 12+ – JOIN HERE 

2.00pm – ELIDIR JONES – STRAEON ARSWYD A HEN HUNLLEFAU
(Horror Stories and Old Nightmares)

Caewch y llenni, trowch y goleuadau i ffwrdd, ac ymunwch ag Elidir Jones am sesiwn sbwci dros ben. Ar ôl y darlleniad cyntaf erioed o lyfr newydd Elidir o straeon arswyd, Sgrech y Creigiau, cewch wybod am rai o ysbrydion mwyaf dychrynllyd y cymoedd, cyn mynd ati i lunio eich stori eich hun sy’n cyfuno eich dychymyg gwyllt a’r gwirionedd arswydus.

Oed 11+

Draw the curtains closed, turn the lights off, and join Elidir Jones for a seriously spooky Welsh-language session. After the first-ever reading from Elidir’s upcoming book of horror stories, Sgrech y Creigiau, learn about some of the scariest ghosts the valleys have to offer, before crafting your own chilling tale combining your wild imagination with the chilling truth.

Ages 11+ – JOIN HERE 

To see the full festival programme, go HERE.

The amazing Pontypridd Library

Reading has become a refuge in this difficult time, supporting children’s mental wellbeing and enabling them to dream about the future

  • 3 in 5 (59.3%) children and young people told us during lockdown that reading makes them feel better
  • 3 in 10 (31.6%) said that reading helps them when they feel sad because they cannot see their family and friends
  • Reading is encouraging half of children (50.2%) to dream about the future

While the gender gap in children’s reading has widened during lockdown, audiobooks may provide a route into reading for boys

  • Lockdown has increased the literacy engagement gap between boys and girls, with the gap in reading enjoyment widening from 2.3 percentage points at the beginning of 2020 to 11.5 percentage points during lockdown. The gender gap in daily reading also widened during lockdown, increasing from a 4.3 percentage point difference at the beginning of 2020 to a 7.4 percentage point difference during lockdown
  • Audiobooks might be a way to re-engage boys with stories, as this is the only format where more boys than girls said that they enjoy it more and are doing it more often.
  • Overall, slightly more boys than girls (25.0% vs. 22.4%) said they had listened to audiobooks more during lockdown than before
  • Audiobooks also appear to offer a way into literacy for boys, with 1 in 2 (51.1%) boys saying that listening to audiobooks has increased their interest in reading, and 2 in 5 (43.2%) saying that it has made them more interested in writing

We think the route into children reading more isn’t so much the issue, it’s getting and keeping them reading which is. Events like the PONTYPRIDD CHILDREN’S BOOK FESTIVAL are so important, and long may they continue.

For full details on this years virtual festival, just go to their website, HERE. Of you can check them out on the socials…..

And why not take a look at our other’bookish’ features below.

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