Jacqueline Wilson on getting children to read, escapism and inspiring books
“It’s very easy to put children off reading without meaning to,” says children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson, whose sales figures speak to the contrary.
The 71-year-old has written more than 100 novels, is best known for The Story of Tracy Beaker series, and has sold more than 40 million books in the UK alone. Her latest book, Wave Me Goodbye, is about ten-year-old Shirley, an evacuee who is thrown into uncertainty, when she is sent away on a train with her schoolmates, during the Second World War.
Her novels place difficult issues such as family dysfunctions, divorce, mental illness and bereavement into first-person narratives that young readers can easily understand and relate to.
But Wilson is aware that some children find books intimidating and that school sometimes makes reading seem less than fun. So she is spearheading a campaign to get kids reading during summer holidays.
She has teamed up with budget airline Easyjet to fill planes taking kids abroad over the summer with “flybraries” — passenger seat pockets containing children’s classics chosen by Wilson.
According to the Department for Education just 37% of ten-year-olds read for pleasure and one in five children in England cannot read well by the age of 11.
Every year studies claim children are reading less today than their parents’ or grandparents’ generation — and a new one by Easyjet to support its campaign is no exception.
“Children aren’t reading as much today for the obvious reason that they have so many other things to occupy them. Every child now plays some kind of electronic game,” says Wilson, adding that schools can sometimes add to the problem.
“Because the school curriculum is so crammed there is very little time for any kind of reading for pleasure.
"When children pick up a book often teachers ask them questions to make sure that they’ve read it and understood it. Well, I think that just kills the whole thing dead.
“At school we used to have story time, normally at the end of the day, when we just listened to a story being read aloud to us. It was fun. That’s what it is all about.”
She has picked Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, The Railway Children and The Wizard of Oz to populate the “flybraries”. Like Wilson’s own works, the stories she’s chosen don’t shy away from harsh realities like loss or loneliness.
“Rather than to point children in the direction of modern children’s books, I wanted to choose tried and tested books that have never been out of print,” she says.
“Stories like Alice in Wonderland that are actually out there anyway, and that children already sort of know. It makes it easier for children to feel comfortable starting to read those kinds of books.
“Children have the most amazing ability to lose themselves entirely in books. If you ask adults what they read as a child often they can recall stories with a vividness.
“If you can get children reading then they will be readers for life.”
Wilson, who spoke last year for the first time, about her difficult early life with “parents who argued every day, about practically everything”, talks of reading in childhood as escapism.
She was a voracious reader and wrote her first “novel” at the age of nine — 21 handwritten sides of paper.
“The first proper book I read was The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton,” she says.
“Enid Blyton might have been a racist or a Zionist, but when you’re five or six you don’t care. What you want is a story that transports you. One that it’s easy to read and that you can race through.
“By the time I was about ten I had a little collection of paperbacks and children’s classics. My father used to tell me to take my head out of books and go and do something useful.”
The first adult book Wilson read was Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. “I was bored and had run out of library books. I would have been about 11 at the time,” she says.
“My parents didn’t have many books but there was an old copy of Jane Eyre. It didn’t look very promising from the outside. But from the moment I started reading I was riveted.
“I hadn’t realised that sometimes adult books started with the main character as a child. And here we had a little girl sitting in a window seat and it just seemed very real to me.
"I couldn’t stop reading it, I was blown away by it and it’s still one of my all-time favourite classics.”
As a child Wilson read and re-read Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes and Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women— but omitted them from the Easyjet libraries for fear of alienating boys.
“It’s so silly because children can be put off reading books that they would love for the silliest reasons. I think you have to quite canny about [enticing them],” she says.
The Railway Children is her all-time favourite children’s book for reasons that have followed her into adulthood.
“I just love E Nesbit’s work. Her style. How she understands children. The fascinating railway…
"I also sympathise with the fact that the mother writes for a living and finds it hard work. And whenever she sells a story they have buns for tea.”
Wilson has a daughter, Emma, whom she had when she was 21, around the time she started writing novels and when she was regularly contributing stories to magazines.
“When you’re writing for magazines or you’ve got to finish your novel it can be hard juggling everything. You want to be a good mum, but there are deadlines to meet..
"Luckily for me my daughter was a bookworm and the sort of child who was happy to read, write her own stories or draw while I worked.
“When I’d finished or sold a story we’d often actually have buns for tea. I took that from The Railway Children.”
EasyJet's McCall set for golden hello on ITV arrival
Dame Carolyn McCall will receive a multi-million pound welcome package from ITV when she touches down in January, as the broadcaster said it would compensate her for any loss of bonus from leaving easyJet.
The budget airline and media company today confirmed McCall, chief executive for seven years at easyJet, would land at ITV in January.
The former chief executive of Guardian Media Group called the decision to move a difficult but said the “opportunity from ITV felt like the right one to take. It is a fantastic company in a dynamic and stimulating sector.”
McCall was expected to receive a bonus between £1.5 million and £3.2 million. EasyJet shares have risen this year after the Brexit vote, potentially boosing her bonus.
At ITV she will be paid £900,000 plus a bonus of up to 180% of salary, which it said was in line with what previous boss Adam Crozier was paid.
Crozier, a former Royal Mail and Football Association chief executive who left in June after seven years, is credited with turning around ITV. However, the share price has fallen in the face of a tough advertising market.
The City largely welcomed McCall’s arrival and predicted no dramatic shift in ITV’s strategy.
The broadcaster’s shares rose 3% to 180p, while easyJet shares slipped less than 1%.
Market report: EasyJet’s McCall faces rough exit after Lufthansa sell-off
If Dame Carolyn McCall thought she could cruise through her final six months at easyJet on autopilot, then she could be in for a nasty surprise.
Investors today feared a turbulent second half of the year for airlines after Lufthansa’s trading update.
The German airline saw strong summer bookings as it lifted profit guidance for the year, but investors focused on the more cautious outlook for the second half of 2017.
Lufthansa shares lost altitude and the sell-off quickly took hold of the UK’s airlines. EasyJet, which is hunting for a chief executive to replace McCall who heads to ITV in January, fell 33.35p, or 2.3%, to 1397.65p.
Other airline stocks feeling the pain were British Airways owner IAG, off 10.5p, or 1.7%, at 613p, Jet2 owner Dart Group, which dipped 7.48p, or 1.4%, to 517.5p, and Wizz Air, down 56p, or 2.1%, to 2556p.
The unexpected fall in inflation last month caused sterling to slump, which lifted the FTSE 100, dominated by dollar earners, into positive territory, up 11.83 points at 7415.96. Experian was 6.11p weaker at 1562p after revealing a slight slowdown in Latin America in the first quarter.
The dollar’s mid-morning surge against the pound softened the fall from the credit checker’s shares, North America being its biggest market.
QinetiQ rose 11.12p, or 4.2%, to 274.7p after Investec upgraded the defence contractor from Hold, becoming the only broker with a Buy rating. Investec argued its share price slide is unwarranted as it urged clients to pile in.
Investors logged in to troubled cyber security firm NCC Group. It surged 10p, or 6%, to 179.75p after solid annual results and after completing its strategic review, which follows two profit warnings. The company, which slumped to a £55 million loss after heavy writedowns, maintained the dividend.
AIM-listed Allergy Therapeutics jumped 2.65p, or 10%, to 28.9p as it revealed annual revenues will be ahead of forecasts at £64.1 million, a 32% increase on the prior year.
Shares in Panmure Gordon were suspended after former Barclays boss Bob Diamond and Qatari investment bank QInvest completed their £15.5 million takeover of the City broker.
What this article buries on paragraph 15 is that apparently one of them went on a “sponsored walk” in Iraq.
In the spirit of this being the next sob story to collapse within three days, I’m going to start a project of compiling every incident where a Muslim has hit the limelight very quickly and either turns out to have interesting views about Jews or actual links to terrorist organisations. If anyone has any examples like the following, message me or dump them in my asks.
Moderate Mateen’s Moderate Dad
Sad Bethnal Green Dad, daughter radicalised on the internet by the evil ISIS men
PARIS/SEYNE-LES-ALPES (Reuters) - A young German co-pilot barricaded himself alone in the cockpit of Germanwings flight 9525 and apparently set it on course to crash into an Alpine mountain, killing all 150 people on board including himself, French prosecutors said on Thursday.
They offered no motive for why Andreas Lubitz, 27, would take the controls of the Airbus A320, lock the captain out of the cockpit and deliberately set it veering down from cruising altitude at 3,000 feet per minute.
German police searched his home for evidence that might offer some explanation for what was behind Tuesday’s crash in the French Alps.
The scenario stunned the aviation world. Within hours of the prosecutors’ announcement, several airlines responded by immediately changing their rules to require a second crew member to be in the cockpit at all times. That is already compulsory in the United States but not in Europe.
Canada said it would now require it of all its airlines. EasyJet, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Air Berlin were among other carriers that swiftly announced such policies.
Among those that didn’t was Germanwings parent company Lufthansa, whose CEO said he thought it was unnecessary. But the airline came under swift pressure on social media to make such a change and later said it would discuss it with others in the industry.
French and German officials said there was no indication Lubitz was a terrorist but offered no rival theories to explain his actions. Acquaintances described him as an affable young man who had given no sign of harmful intent.
Lubitz acted “for a reason we cannot fathom right now but which looks like intent to destroy this aircraft”, Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said.
Setting the plane’s controls for rapid descent was an act that “could only have been voluntary”, Robin said. “He had… no reason to stop the pilot-in-command from coming back into the cockpit. He had no reason to refuse to answer to the air controller who was alerting him on the loss of altitude.“
The captain, who had stepped out of the cockpit, probably to use the toilet, could be heard on flight recordings trying to force his way back in. "You can hear banging to try to smash the door down,” Robin said.
Most of the passengers would not have been aware of their fate until the very end, he said: “Only toward the end do you hear screams,” he said. “And bear in mind that death would have been instantaneous…the aircraft was literally smashed to bits.”
FlightRadar24, an online air tracking service that uses satellite data, said it had found evidence the autopilot was abruptly switched from cruising altitude to just 100 feet, the lowest possible setting. The plane crashed at about 6,000 feet.
“Between 09:30:52 and 09:30:55 you can see that the autopilot was manually changed from 38,000 feet to 100 feet and 9 seconds later the aircraft started to descend, probably with the ‘open descent’ autopilot setting,” Fredrik Lindahl, chief executive of the Swedish tracking service, said.
Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said its air crew were picked carefully and subjected to psychological vetting.
“No matter your safety regulations, no matter how high you set the bar, and we have incredibly high standards, there is no way to rule out such an event,” Spohr said.
Attention was focused on the motivations of Lubitz, a German national who joined the Lufthansa-owned budget carrier in September 2013 and had just 630 hours of flying time - compared with the 6,000 hours of the flight captain.
“Suicide” was the wrong word to describe actions which killed so many other people, Robin, the French prosecutor, said: “I don’t necessarily call it suicide when you have responsibility for 100 or so lives.”
The family of the co-pilot, whose age was earlier misstated as 28, arrived in France for a tribute alongside other victims. They were being kept apart from the others, Robin said.
Police searched the co-pilot’s home in Montabaur, Germany, leaving with large blue bags of evidence and a computer. A man was led out of the building, shielded by police holding up jackets.
Acquaintances in the town said they were stunned.
“I’m just speechless. I don’t have any explanation for this. Knowing Andreas, this is just inconceivable for me,” said Peter Ruecker, a long-time member of the local flight club where Lubitz received his flying license years ago.
“He was a lot of fun, even though he was perhaps sometimes a bit quiet. He was just another boy like so many others here.”
A photo on Lubitz’s Facebook page, which was later taken down, shows a smiling young man posing in front of San Francisco’s Golden Gate bridge.
Investigators were still searching for the second of the two black boxes on Thursday in the ravine where the plane crashed, 100 km (65 miles) from Nice. This box would contain data from the plane’s instruments.
Under German aviation law, pilots may temporarily leave the cockpit at certain times and in certain circumstances, such as while the aircraft is cruising.
Cockpit doors can be opened from the outside with a code, in line with regulations introduced after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, but the code can be overridden from inside the cockpit, making the door impenetrable.
Germanwings said 72 Germans were killed in the first major air passenger disaster on French soil since the 2000 Concorde accident just outside Paris. Madrid revised down on Thursday the number of Spanish victims to 50 from 51.
As well as Germans and Spaniards, victims included three Americans, a Moroccan and citizens of Britain, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Iran and the Netherlands, officials said. However, DNA checks to identify them could take weeks, the French government said.
The families of victims were being flown to Marseille on Thursday before being taken up to the zone close to the crash site. Chapels had been prepared for them with a view of the mountain where their relatives died.
Dortmund is a city in the Nordrhein-Westfalen, Northwestern Germany. Its airport is home to several low-cost airlines (easyJet, Wizzair, Air Berlin) and serves mainly national and European travelers. There are shuttle buses between the airport and central station. Neighboring cities include Bochum, Düsseldorf, Wuppertal, Münster, and Köln (Cologne). The local Christmas Market is one of the largest in Germany and hosts one of the largest Christmas trees in the world (in fact a collection of many smaller trees). It’s open from late November to just before Christmas. Football club Borussia Dortmund are former European Champions and one of Germany’s top clubs in the Bundesliga. The city center is a walkable shopping mile with lots of stores. The Thier-Gallerie is Dortmund’s first mall. In a traditional pub drinking beer, try a “Salzkuchen mit Mett” (caraway-spiced roll with seasoned mincemeat and onions) or a “Mettende" (smoked sausage with spicy mustard). Dortmund is home to some famous breweries - don’t miss out, drink a “Stösschen” in any of the old fashioned pubs. This beer specialty is served in a small glass and can be drunk in about 2 draughts.
I work for a budget airline. My coworker had the following exchange:
Passenger, to his daughter: You better hurry up and do your homework or you’ll end up with a low level job like her [points to flight attendant, my coworker].
Coworker, quick as lightning to the daughter: Well, you know what? If your daddy had done his homework he could afford to fly you British Airways [expensive airline] instead of Easyjet [budget airline, us].
After that, he kept his mouth shut until we landed.