“Children excited about reading and writing must be celebrated!”

This weeks contributor Alice Eddington, a teacher from St Stephens Infant School in Canterbury, tells us about her recent visit to the Beaney’s latest exhibition.

If you live in the St. Stephen’s area of Canterbury, the chances are you’ve seen an excited gaggle of infant aged children heading down to the Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. Last week, all nine of the classes from St. Stephen’s Infant school were lucky enough to visit the new and fantastic Enid Blyton exhibition “Mystery Magic and Midnight Feasts”. The appeal of Enid Blyton still holds the imagination of many, young and old and it is unbelievable that her stories have engaged so many generations.

I personally first visited the exhibition on Saturday 31st January all ready to do my teachers “reccie” taking my mother-in-law for company. Forgetting that I was there to check out the health and safety I was completely immersed into the world of Blyton. While I knew she was a prolific writer I was amazed at the range of titles she had published and actually how many I knew! My mother-in-law became animated as she remembered her favourite stories. She talked about how thrilled she was that her Granddaughter had enjoyed being read the stories too. The original manuscripts were certainly amazing; I dare anyone not to be inspired to get writing! Mother-in-law didn’t even hesitate when I suggested she jump in Noddy’s car for a photograph opportunity. Health and safety survey complete, I just knew that this was going to make a fantastic school trip for our children.

So throughout National Storytelling Week the children trotted into town, not even put off by the cold weather and rain; in fact this made the adventure more exciting. Once inside the exhibition the children were whisked away to the different worlds of Enid Blyton. As the exhibition was organised into different areas, small groups of children and helpers negotiated around the room easily. The Magic Faraway Tree was a particular winner with children enjoying dressing up and sliding down into faraway lands. They also found playing schools in Malory Towers interesting and looked so smart in the old fashioned uniform. While children explored the world of the Secret Seven and the Famous Five the teachers and helpers read the notes on Blyton and looked at the amazing art work on the walls. Following a brilliant storytelling workshop run by the Beaney in the Learning Lab everyone headed back to school, keen to get reading!

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So many of the children in our school were inspired to start reading Enid Blyton, Noddy being popular with the younger classes and The Magic Faraway Tree being fun to dip into with teachers easily reading chapters out loud. The adults dug out their well-thumbed and aged editions and shared them with the children too. The classes were invited to enter the Beaney Blyton writing competition and with such a fantastic story starter there were no problems with writers block more an issue of how to stop!

When I was a child Enid Blyton had lost favour, the racist under tones of the golly-wog characters and dated language and names of some of the characters putting off many parents from buying these stories for their children. The updated editions have once again made Enid Blyton appropriate and accessible for children. Love her or loathe her she was certainly a remarkable lady with an amazing imagination. Anything that gets children excited about reading and writing must be celebrated!

Mystery, Magic and Midnight Feasts – The Many Adventures of Enid Blyton” is on in the special exhibitions room at The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge until Sunday 19th April. I’ve already been twice, the question is, how many times will you go?

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