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The Golden Acorn
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National Literacy Trust Book List

As part of its work towards improving reading skills among young learners in the UK, The National Literacy Trust recently announced its official list for ‘Books that work well in shared and guided reading’, a valuable resource based on a 2013 survey of a network of over 33,000 teachers.

Among the list of titles recommended for key stage 2 is Catherine Cooper’s The Golden Acorn, notable for being structured in such a way that it fits well into a reading session and commended as ‘exciting enough to hold children’s attention between sessions’. Originally self-published, The Golden Acorn won the Brit Writers’ Awards 2010 for unpublished writers, securing its author a five-book publishing deal with Infinite Ideas.

Catherine was a primary school teacher for twenty-nine years before deciding to write for children, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that her books are so popular in schools. Catherine visits about fifty schools a year to talk to children about her stories, and travels all over the country presenting prizes, opening libraries, signing books, giving speeches and attending festivals. She is a keen supporter of an innovative reading scheme run by KidsReadWriteReview, and has received invitations to both houses of parliament for her work with Beanstalk, a charity that supports the network of volunteers who help children with their reading.

The November release of Catherine’s fifth Jack Brenin book, The Oak Lord, will be supported by the usual flurry of author activity – what would a book launch be without an exhausting treadmill of author engagements, signings and events, not to mention the work that happens behind the scenes, on emails, social media and press activity? For Catherine these activities are a year-round commitment, and something she thrives on. ‘Of course’, says Catherine, ‘Camelin always accompanies me: he has various hats, and both black and white bow ties to wear, depending on the occasion’.

Camelin is perhaps the best loved of all Catherine’s characters. He takes pride of place on Catherine’s website and even has his own Facebook page, where users can access his daily posts, and find out how to enter his monthly portrait competition. ‘We’ve had photos of a Camelin soft toy, made by an 11 year old boy… a button picture of Camelin, and every media imaginable, including this month a drawing done on an iPad,’ reveals Catherine.

As schools across the UK continue to make the shift into the digital world, it’s now even easier for teachers to access the resources they need, and for children to discover more about the things they enjoy. A children’s book can no longer be just a book and survive in today’s overcrowded market. Just as a DVD comes packed with extra content, a book must be a portal to a world of discovery. It must work on many levels if it is to be successful in a school where attention spans may be low and reluctance towards reading is high. It should be a source of entertainment but also a learning tool. And it must take advantage of the latest digital technology if it is to realise its full potential.

Knowing this, Catherine works tirelessly to create a love of reading in children, and also to encourage kids to write. There is strong evidence that gifted books are more likely to be read, and that’s why Infinite Ideas offers The Golden Acorn as a free download in the UK Kindle Store. ‘Our free eBook is enormously helpful in encouraging children who want to read’, says Catherine. ‘I believe reading is the passport that enables children to travel on a never-ending journey for the rest of their lives. The places you can visit are limitless – how else could you journey to the stars; experience a foreign land or be transported in time and place? When you open a book, no matter what its genre, you can only release the magic from its pages when you’re able to read.

(16 July 2013 by Laura Sandford)