Maxwell Grantly

Magical stories from an independent author

Archive for the tag “literacy”

Story-Telling of the Future

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Originally, story-telling would occur by word-of-mouth. Then, with the invention of the printing press, paper-based books were soon to be developed and the novel was born. More recently, with advances in technology, audio books became popular. Today, with the popularity of digital information, people can now read digitalised eBooks on an electronic device.

You may agree that it is very difficult, if not impossible, to predict how story-telling will proceed into the future. However, could it be that the reading experience may become more interactive, with the reader becoming a participant in the story?

If this is the case, this picture may give you an appetite of what we might expect in the very near future. The children in this photograph have been inspired and taught by Hauptmann Weydert. They are following a projection of a story, by author Maxwell Grantly, upon a screen at the back of the studio as the plot is being read by the youth leader. At the same time, the children are exploring a digital reconstruction of the story’s setting on their own individual computer within Hauptmann Weydert’s IT studio. They have even been able to interact with different characters from the story at the same time, talking to them and playing a range of basic games.

Who knows how the reading experience may develop in the more distant future!

(Picture Credit: Hauptmann Weydert)

Children and eBooks

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Surveys show that many adults prefer to access their reading material in a paper format. Children, however, are more open to using digital devices.

The use of eBooks is on the rise in schools, by children as young as three, and digital devices are making a large difference to the reading habits of boys in particular. The School Library Journal has reported that tablets or laptops are currently used in about two-thirds of schools across America, however their use is rather more sporadic in British schools. Over the past year, the National Literacy Trust has been conducting research into the impact of digital reading devices upon the literacy development of a sample of 800 children from 40 schools. Interestingly, in a period of just four months, boys made (on average) a progress of 8.4 months, compared to an average of 7.2 months among girls.

Researchers are now beginning new studies to try and discover why boys respond so well to digital media.

There is still a place for a wide range of different reading formats in both schools and the home but it is encouraging that, despite the reservations of adults towards the introduction of eBooks, many children flourish with the acquisition of sound literacy skills, using digital formats.

If your child is interested in using a tablet or laptop to access reading material, you may like to know that Maxwell Grantly has produced an exciting range of original reading material, all of which can be downloaded from Kobo and iTunes completely free of charge.

(Source of information: BBC website)

Child Literacy at Christmas

Have you seen the new Sainsbury’s Christmas Advert this year? Mog sets off a chain of unfortunate events that almost ruin Christmas for the Thomas family. Can she pull it all back to save the day?

This year, Sainsbury’s are working in partnership with HarperCollins Children’s Books and world renowned author/illustrator Judith Kerr to create a Christmas story based on her much loved character Mog.

If you enjoyed the video clip, you can buy the beautifully illustrated book from Sainsbury’s. Every penny of the profit from sales of the book will be donated to Save the Children, improving child literacy in the UK.

If you would like further inspiration for teaching children to read, you may also like to know that every story by Maxwell Grantly can be downloaded (completely free of charge) from both iBooks and Kobo. There is even a free special Christmas eBook planned for released in December – more news about that later this month.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

Historical Research for “A Clean Sweep”

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Research is an important part of the planning process of any story. It is essential that a storyline should be believable and that readers are not confused by the inclusion of any misinformation that detracts them from the plot. It is the role of an author to build a world that is as convincing as possible, so that the reader may become fully immersed within the story.

One important area of research for “A Clean Sweep” (Maxwell’s latest story) was the role of children chimney cleaners in Victorian times.

It was common to use small children, as young as four or five, to scramble up the insides of chimneys, to scrape and brush soot from the inside of the walls. These children would often freeze in fear, become stuck or simply fall asleep due to exhaustion, within the confines of the flue. When this happened, their masters would sometimes send a second child up the chimney, to prick the soles of the feet of the first child. At other times, the master would light a small bundle of straw or burn a brimstone candle in the fireplace, so that the suffocating smoke would force the child out.

Soot is a carcinogen and, as these children would often sleep on piles of soot bags and very rarely washed, many of these young boys went on to develop Chimney Sweeps’ Cancer in their early adult years.

Although the use of children chimney sweeps was banned in 1875, the practice continued for some years to come, in some larger country houses.

Interestingly, Maxwell Grantly once lived in a small market town in Suffolk, called Beccles. One quirky story from Beccles dwells upon the fact that one small house in the town centre has a stone shaped like a gravestone, embedded into the top of its chimneystack. You can see it clearly, on the left of the chimney pot, in the very centre of this photograph. There are many local tales regarding this peculiar stone, at the top of the chimneystack.

Beccles Town Centre

It is said that the stone is a headstone of a young nineteenth century boy, who was a local chimney sweep. The story says that he was forced up the chimney, in order to brush out soot from the inside of the chimney, but he lost his footing and slipped. In doing so, he became wedged and was unable to escape from the chimney, suffocating within his brick chimney prison. It was felt, at the time, that the top of the chimney was the best location for his gravestone. Other tales about this stone are somewhat more gristly. Some local people explain that the boy’s body was never retrieved and that his skeletal corpse remains embedded within the chimney. However, it is very likely that this gravestone story is not true and the additional gristly embellishment is most certainly untrue. It is completely implausible that the householders would have wanted to live in the same building as a corpse. (In fact there has been another account, from elsewhere, of a twelve-year-old chimney sweep becoming trapped within the flue, as he tried to dislodge soot. In this case, the chimney was demolished in a botched attempt to save the life of the urchin, who died shortly afterwards.)

In summary, it is highly unlikely that this chimney stone really is a child’s gravestone. It is more likely that this stone has an alternative function, solely due to the fact that a neighbouring town (Lowestoft) has three of these strange-shaped stones set into the tops of various chimney stacks, set around the historic centre of its high street. It is very implausible that so many chimney sweeps would have died in such a small geographical area and even more unlikely that their deaths would be remembered in such a similar fashion by different householders. It is more plausible that these stones serve an alternative purpose, in assisting air flow. Even still, the continued repetition of the ‘gravestone’ story serves to reinforce the fact that it is commonly accepted, by many different people, that chimney sweeps did indeed live miserable and wretched lives. All-in-all, it was an awful life being a chimney sweep child in Victorian times and these youngsters suffered from neglect, as well as numerous dreadful hardships.

A Clean Sweep Cover Page

Luckily, in the story “A Clean Sweep” the hero of the story does finally find his happy ending. However, like most stories by Maxwell Grantly, there are many interesting twists to the plot and all is not as it might, at first, appear to be.

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