Thursday, 2 October 2014

Deputy Head Anona Morley Chats about Brilliant Books

In my day job (and using my alter-ego the Green Wizard), I interview independent authors worldwide about their books and their work.

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce the staff on Brilliant Books, all of who are giving up their time to inspire the young people - who are also giving up their playtime too.

Anona Morley is the Deputy Head of Seely Primary and our Brilliant Books Link. 

We're delighted to be working with her and it is her drive and passion to encourage young people to read that is driving the project forward internally. She's done the hard work for us, in other words. I spoke to her about many things literary and here's what she had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself, Anona?

Well, I've been teaching for 10 years and am in my fourth year as deputy at my current school. I am interested in a range of books and music and enjoy embarking on new experiences that challenge me. 

I have 2 daughters and a cat called Tigger - who is very bouncy!

How are you involved in Brilliant Books?

I have been involved in the planning stages of this exciting project and support each week.

What are your ambitions for the project and the young people on it?

My ambition is that all of the pupils that embark on this journey with us will have their 'eyes opened' to world around them and  the enrichment of texts and language that is out there. I want them to be as excited about books and reading as I am, to develop a thirst for reading.

The Rijksmuseum, Netherlands
What book are you using on your Host slot and why?
I'm reading 'When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit' by Judith Kerr. This was the first book that I read as a child as thought 'wow' - the first book that I didn't want to stop reading but wanted to find out what happened in the end. I loved the style of Judith Kerr's writing and the detail, I liked how I could empathise with the main character Anna (as it was also based on Judith's life experiences).

It is this that I want to share with the children - how life experiences affect us and how we can use them to write and create amazing things.

Reading this book inspired me to go hunting for more stories and developed an interest within me to find out more!

I hear you are planning a  new approach to BB with a colleague?

Yes, I've invited my lovely colleague Beverley Rolley to join me. Beverley has a gift for languages and we both share a love of words. 

She will bring 'Carrie's War' by Nina Bawden with her. Both books link beautifully and we would like to use drama and shared experiences as a tool for writing this week.

Why do you think young boys and teenage boys (in particular) have stopped reading? What would you do about it?

Comics in the sixties and seventies were popular in an era where teenage
boys read in huge numbers. Nowadays, most American superhero comics are too expensive to
buy in bulk, are aimed at older people, and focus on adult themes.
British comics are virtually non-existent in their traditional weekly form.

I think there are lots of pressures for teenagers today. Lot's of the reading they do is dictated - but what about reading because you want to? 

Comics, while derided, introduced many teenagers to the world
in a way that textbooks never did. The Incredible Hulk, a modern
day allegory for the duality of man, is a case in point.
I think I would try to create opportunities for reading - that are built into the day - time out to read anything you want (well almost). 

Providing positive role models, which Brilliant Books is doing, is so important and very influential.

The popular Neil Gaiman - a lifelong reader and great advocate of getting
young people reading again

Morpurgo or Shakespeare? What type of writing would you focus on in an English curriculum?
Both - although I do love a bit of Shakespeare!

One of the most popular books written
in the last decade by YA specialist, Michael Morpurgo

Once my teacher had guided me through the language barriers I enjoyed the plot, the characters, the events - Shakespeare was so clever.

My daughters have always enjoyed reading children's versions of Shakespeare- once you understand the story then the language becomes more accessible. 

Children's Shakespeare - soon to be appearing on Brilliant Books
I've heard that Michael Morpurgo has also teamed up with the Royal Shakespeare company too!

In the English curriculum there has to be a breadth of writing - different audiences, different contexts. Making writing purposeful is key to getting the pupils on board.

Give us A) A book you reread regularly   B) A book which influenced you  C) A book you loved as a child
A) I don't really re-read books - I just admire them on my bookshelf and use those that I enjoyed to take me on my own literary journey of discovery to widen my repertoire.

B) I think all of the books I read at university - but probably 'The Color Purple' by Alice Walker.

C) I loved reading Enid Blyton as a child and it's great to see her books making a comeback - I particularly liked 'The Wishing Chair'.

In a parallel world, name one author, one actor and one successful person you would like to see on your Ideal Brilliant Books project.

1 author - it would have to be J.K Rowling - for the children - they would be sooooo excited.

1 actor - Whoopi Goldberg - she has demonstrated such a range of skills and is a truly amazing person - an inspiration.

1 successful person - Thomas Edison - if at first you don't succeed try and try again!!

Anona, thank you for chatting with us and thank you - and Seely Primary - for getting involved with Brilliant Books.

Thank you, Mark. I've really enjoyed the opportunity.

Anona encourages the Brilliant Books gang with their writing

Until next week


Brilliant Books

The Admont Abbey Library, Austria


  1. I loved Enid Blyton too as a child and these are probably the only books I have read over and over - I had more time for such things then :-) Love your choices for one author, one actor and one successful person too - great interview!