Viz artist John Fardell helps schools’ literacy

John Fardell says pictures can help words to come alive and have more meaning. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
John Fardell says pictures can help words to come alive and have more meaning. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach
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AN illustrator for rude cult comic Viz is helping Edinburgh primary school pupils learn how to read and write.

Once a regular contributor to the famously offensive publication – which brought us foul-mouthed creations including The Fat Slags and Biffa Bacon – John Fardell will visit Forthview Primary as part of a renewed city drive to boost children’s literacy.

The Edinburgh-based artist – designer of long-running Viz strips The Modern Parents and The Critics – will use his visual expertise to spark youngsters’ enthusiasm and help them overcome confidence issues which undermine the development of good reading and writing skills.

And the dad-of-two has promised to mind his language when he speaks to P4s – and their dads – during a special literacy session at the school next week.

He said: “When you’re mixing words and pictures then the basic pattern of the story becomes clearer and it really frees you to go for the right word, the exciting word. The visuals create a kind of structure where the story becomes apparent, and that feeds into the children’s writing.”

Now focused on picture books and adventure novels rather than Viz comics, Mr Fardell warned children could become disengaged from reading and writing because the traditional class focus tends to be on complicated grammar and vocabulary.

He said the secret was to inject as much colour and fun as possible into the teaching process.

“Whatever the kids are interested or excited about during their spare time, you want to channel that in,” he said. “This is about getting them to think of reading and writing as fun rather than just as hard work.”

Mums and dads at the school – who admit to dipping into Viz when they were younger – are hopeful the illustrator’s visit will provide a big boost to literacy levels.

Dad-of-two Jamie Hobbs, 36, whose children are in P1 and P7 at Forthview, said: “We were all quite excited when we heard he was coming. I think it’s a good thing, personally, especially for the kids who are not great readers. It will get them over confidence hurdles and into reading more books.”

Mum Kelly Hunter, 37, with children in P3 and P5, added: “I can see the thought behind this, although I’m not sure how it will help my wee ones to read and write. But if this helps them to connect images to words then maybe it’s a good thing.”

Education bosses, meanwhile, hope the session will inspire parents to become more involved in teaching children to read and write. Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “I hope it will give parents the confidence and inspiration to read with their children, and I hope it will give the pupils a love of reading which will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

The comic was started in Newcastle upon Tyne in December 1979 by Chris Donald, who produced it from his parents’ home.