Author goes back to school to inspire youngsters into reading

Forrester High School in Edinburgh
Forrester High School in Edinburgh
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An experienced author has bunkered down at Forrester High School in the hope of inspiring a lifelong love of reading in pupils.

New author in residence Victoria Williamson said she was thrilled to be picked by the school as part of the Scottish Book Trust’s year-long literature programme.

The Live Literature School Residency Programme, now in its third year, is funded by Walter Scott Giving Group and delivered by Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives through reading and writing.

Schools across the country were invited to apply to the programme, which enables professional authors to build a relationship with pupils and engage them in a project.

Victoria, who has worked as a teacher in Cameroon, Malawi, in China, and as a special needs teacher in the UK, said working with senior pupils will giver her the opportunity to work in-depth on their individual writing.

“Hopefully I will help to inspire some of the young Scottish authors of the future,” she said. “For students who are either not interested in reading, or have lost interest, the most important thing is finding the right book that will spark their interest again. Rather than suggesting a whole lot of popular books, or books that I enjoyed myself, the best starting point is the student themselves – what do they like? Sometimes starting off with a film or TV show they’ve enjoyed and getting them to read the book can be a good strategy, as can encouraging them to read non-fiction books about a topic or person they’re interesting in finding out more about.”

Victoria said her love of reading started with adventure stories such as Tin Tin and Enid Blyton before she moved on to fantasy and science fiction including The Hobbit and Tripods. But it was the gap in female characters leading the adventures that inspired her writing.

She said: “I realised that all of these books featured boys who went off and had adventures with their male friends, and even the animals stories I loved, such as Watership Down had male lead characters. It’s not that there were no female characters worth reading about when I was growing up, but I just couldn’t get into books that were aimed primarily at girls in the same way. There was always something missing for me.”

Victoria’s experiences with teaching young children in a deprived area, many of whom were asylum seekers, inspired her first novel, The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle, an uplifting tale of redemption and unlikely friendship between Glasgow bad girl Caylin and Syrian refugee Reema.

“The Fox Girl And The White Gazelle is my attempt to write the kind of book I wanted to read as a child but didn’t yet know it,” Victoria added.