Bookworm Blethers with…… Kate Heap

I am very honoured to welcome today’s Bookworm Blethers guest, the wonderful blogger and author Kate Heap. Thank you so much for taking part, Kate. I love your blog and your teaching resource books look brilliant! Follow Kate on Twitter at @KateHeap1.

I launched Scope for Imagination in October 2019. After over twenty years of teaching in both Canada and the UK, I had just left my school position to begin a new challenge as a freelance Primary English Consultant and author of reading comprehension books. This change meant I had a lot more time to share the wonderful children’s books I had been using with my classes, promoting to school staff and sharing with my own children. I love supporting with publishers and authors and introducing teachers and parents to fantastic new books.

It can be easy for teachers to stick to a text they have used for years. My blog encourages them to try something new and broaden their offer to children. I focus on the key messages and themes of the books I am sharing – how they will inspire young readers and how teachers can use them in class. Through social media, I try to share specific recommendations that match a teacher’s or parent’s needs.

Blogging is also a great way to share the brilliant online events that are happening each week. Literary festivals, author talks and book launches have become more accessible since life moved online in 2020. Promoting these means many more children, families and schools can access the wider world of books.

My blog was inspired by one of my favourite books, Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery.

“It’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we knew all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”

  • What do you enjoy most about blogging?  What are the challenges?

I really enjoy writing my blog and, of course, all of the reading that goes with it. Children’s books have been a wonderful escape from all of the challenges of everyday life. Connecting with authors and publishers more regularly has brought so many amazing books into our home which I have been able to share with my own children (ages 13, 11 & 11). We have so many rich discussions about what we read.

Writing my blog gives me a chance to really think about all the ingredients of a great book. I write my posts from the point of view of a parent and a teacher, recommending books that would suit a particular age, year group, curriculum topic or interest. I love it when I’m chatting with a friend or colleague about reading and suddenly think of just the right book for their child or class.

I also love the relationships I have developed through my blog. Writing and sharing has given me the opportunity to get to know authors, publishers and educators who share my passion for books. The children’s book community on Twitter is incredibly friendly and encouraging, always ready to chat about reading.

The biggest challenge I find with blogging is time. Life can get very busy and it doesn’t take much for my reading list to get out of control! There are so many brilliant books I want to read and I simply can’t fit them all in. With three children, writing deadlines and other consultancy work, I have to make sure I prioritise some reading time each day to keep my blog up-to-date and my reading list at a manageable size.

  • You are also an author of some teacher resource books. Tell us a little bit about this.

While teaching, I found there was a gap in the reading resources available for Key Stage Two (KS2) when it came to Classic Literature and Classic Poetry. In recent years, we have seen several changes to the KS2 English Curriculum, the KS2 Reading Test Framework, and overall expectations. A focus on higher-level vocabulary and increased use of more classic-style texts and language has challenged both teachers and children. I wanted to write books that would show teachers how to approach these texts with confidence.

I teamed up with Brilliant Publications to create Developing Reading Comprehension Skills – a series of eight reading comprehension books for children, focusing on high-quality literature and the full range of content domain question types which are assessed in the KS2 SATs. The series gives children opportunities to tackle more complex vocabulary, explore how authors use language to impact their readers, and develop endurance for longer passages.  To support the adults using the books, each begins with guidance and strategies for teaching the eight different question types, plus suggestions for embedding these texts in the wider English curriculum.

The Developing Reading Comprehension Skills series is suitable for new and recently qualified teachers, as well as the more experienced looking to expand the range of texts they use. These books are useful in the classroom, for home learning, and long-term home education. Although aimed at Key Stage Two, they would also be appropriate in Key Stage Three for supporting children who have not yet reached the expected Year 6 standard.

The first two books in the series, Years 5-6: Classic Literature and Years 5-6: Classic Poetry, are now available from Brilliant Publications, Waterstones and Amazon (print and electronic versions). Future books in the series are Years 3-4: Classic Literature, Years 3-4: Classic Poetry, Years 5-6: Contemporary Fiction, Years 3-4: Contemporary Fiction, Years 5-6: Non-fiction and Years 3-4: Non-fiction.

  • What books or authors did you love as a child?

As a child growing up in Canada, I was always reading! My dad would take me to the library every Tuesday evening and I would sign out as many books as possible. When I was very small, my favourites were picture books like Madeline and Curious George.  I loved their mischievous adventures!

When I got a little older, I was so excited to move onto “chapter books”, meet new characters and explore new worlds. I was inspired by strong girls who stood up for themselves and had brilliant adventures. I loved Nancy Drew mysteries and books by Beverley Cleary (the Ramona Quimby stories) and Judy Blume. My absolute favourite books are the Anne of Green Gables series. Anne is a true kindred spirit and embodies so many of the values I hold in my own life.

  • I know you will have many, so which current children’s /YA books do you think everyone needs to read?

We are spoilt for choice when it comes to new children’s books. Every month, more wonderful books appear. Here are my top three recommendations.

Brightstorm/Darkwhispers by Vashti Hardy

The Brightstorm series is a celebration of the powerful relationship between boy/girl twins in an incredible fantasy adventure. These stories are full of fascinating technology, imaginative worlds and a brilliant family mystery. Vashti dedicated Darkwhispers to my own twins, Tom & Lucy. This has meant so much to them and has made this already wonderful series even more special to us.

Adventures on Trains series by MG Leonard and Sam Sedgmen

The Adventures on Trains series is the perfect blend of intriguing mystery and exciting train journeys. Starting with The Highland Falcon Thief, readers are whisked away on adventure as they try to solve the crime along with Hal and his Uncle Nat.

The Last Bear by Hannah Gold

The Last Bear is a heartfelt story of the connection between humans and the natural world. When April moves to a remote island in Norway, she befriends a wild polar bear. Together they reveal very real effects of the climate change crisis and develop the most beautiful relationship built on trust and strength.

  • Did you always want to be involved with books and writing? What was your favourite subject at school?

I’ve always loved reading and writing and my favourite lessons at school were English and History. I went through a period when I was obsessed with historical fiction and would read anything set in a time gone by. I was delighted when I discovered Emma Carroll and Karen McCombie with their brilliant historical stories.

I wanted to be a teacher from when I was very young. One of my favourite things about teaching is how it allows me to share my love of literature with children and help even the most reluctant reader to find their reading spark – that one book that launches them into life as a reader.

  • How important do you think it is that children and young people develop a love of reading for pleasure?

Reading widely and developing reading for pleasure is so important for everyone. It allows us to learn things beyond our immediate experiences and takes us to places we may never otherwise be able to go. Not everyone finds their reading spark right away but I believe it is possible for every child. Reading opens the door to dreams and ambitions. It raises aspirations and helps us to understand who we are (or who we want to become). Inside a book, a child can escape, be someone else, or be the truest version of themselves. Parents, teachers and librarians have the great privilege of guiding children as they embark on this journey of discovery.

Thanks so much for joining Bookworm Blethers, Kate! Follow the links to purchase Kate’s books.

Brilliant Publications – Classic Children’s Literature

Brilliant Publications – Classic Poetry

Amazon – Classic Children’s Literature

Amazon – Classic Poetry

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s