Last week was World Book and Copyright Day. The 23rd of April was chosen to celebrate books and reading for a very specific purpose. William Shakespeare, the most famous playwright ever, was born on this day. He became famous for his absorbing plots and superb command of the English language. Therefore it seemed quite fitting that his birthday would be chosen to make people more aware of the wonderful world of books.
San Anton School decided to go a step further and instead of devoting just one day to this event, a week full of activities was planned. All the school was involved, from the very young ones in the Junior Sector to the oldest students in Senior Sector. A number of guest authors also visited the school... but let's go through the whole event day-by-day.
On Monday, Mikiel, the popular children's mascot of Agenda Kids Club, together with story-teller Rita Antoinette Borg, visited the Junior Sector. Children and teachers were thrilled at the sight of the big friendly giant dog and his companion. After much cheering and clapping, Ms Borg then proceeded to read a story to the children.
As this was going on, the Grade 5 were busy with their Class Atlas. This consisted of a worksheet wherein each class had to put down the topographical details of their classroon. Width, height, number of chairs, doors and windows, subjects they study - EVERYTHING. By the end of the activity they had a fact sheet of their classroom.
Next was the Grade 7s turn. They were treated to a very interesting talk by Joe Attard about the goings about of publishing a research book. Mr Attard is one of the local authorities about Maltese flora and fauna and his talk proved to be a stimulating experience.
The Grade 7s were busy the following day as well. They had a Short Story Competition. The librarian visited each class and expalined the rules of the competition, after which the students had an entire lesson in which to write their own, original story. The best one of the Grade shall win a prize.
Local children's illustrator Marisa Attard visited the school and did a workshop with the Grade 5s. This proved to be a huge success as the children were awed at Ms Attard's dexterity with her pen and were very keen to try their own illustrations. The library was transformed into a hullaballoo of activity as children posed, sketched and giggled at each other's drawings.
On this day, the Write-A-Story activity kicked off as well. This is activity consisted of a big book with the beginning of a story. Starting from Grade 0.1, the book is going through all the classes in the Junior Sector, and each class has to read the story so far, add its bit, and pass it on to the next class. Thus, in the end, there will be a story written by the entire Junior Sector.
On Wednesday, Trevor Zahra visited the school. He is undoubtedly the most prolific of children's authors and well-loved by readers of all ages. It was quite an honour to have him over to speak to the Grade 9s. The latter, in collaboration with the librarian and the Maltese Department, prepared a surprise for Mr Zahra. A number of students stayed after school hours and filmed a trailer for Fuklar Qadim u Bnadar Imcarrta, the book they are presently doing in class. Mr Zahra was extremely pleased with this and congratulated everyone involved on doing a great job.
Later on the Grade 6s had a Story-Telling Session with Ms Vicki, the Head of San Anton School. She chose a beautiful and challenging story written by Malorie Blackman that dealt with bullying. The children were absorbed in the story throughout the entire session and one could tell that they were paying attention to every single word.
During break there was a book sale. This proved to be an enormous hit. The stand was literally stormed by children, eager to buy a book. The selection, supplied to us by Merlin Library, was superb and therefore there was something for everyone. There were many students who left the stall with a satisfied grin and a book clutched in their hands. (A big thank you goes to all the members of staff who volunteered to help during this activity.)
Thursday kicked off with the Grade 6s Poetry Competition. Once again, the librarian popped over to each class and explained the rules. The students had one lesson in which to write their original poem., which was then collected by the class teacher. The best one of the lot shall be awarded a prize.
As this was going on, Ms Vicki was conducting a workshop for parents. She used her own experience both as a mother and as an educator to share strategies on how to get children enamoured with books and reading. The parents found this extremely helpful and their enthusiasm was obvious during the group exercise at the end of the session.
A couple of hours later, Ms Vicki was once again on the centre stage as she read a story to the Grade 11s. She chose a supernatural story by Ray Bradbury. It was a very intense experience and there were a couple of students who actually jumped during some moments of the story. So kudos to Mr Bradbury as a writer and Ms Anastasi as a story-teller.
On the last day of World Book Week, the school in general and the Grade 10s in particular were given a very special treat. Merlin Library chose San Anton School to launch a week-long tour by authors Simon Bartolo and Lorrane Vella, whose book Wied Wirdien hit the bookshops that very day. It was a very special moment as their previous book, Sqaq l-Infern, had sold over a thousand copies in a couple of days. Also, a television crew came over to film the event. It was a special moment that was enjoyed by everyone around.
Next came Spot the Dog. The latter is a very popular and much beloved character amongst the younger students of the Junior Sector. Merlin Library had kindly supplied the school with a number of Spot the Dog beanies, together with a certificate of adoption, and therefore, the librarian, together with Ms Maria Pia Galea, the Head of Administration, went round the Grade 0 and Grade 1 classes to give a Spot the Dog to each class. He will be the class mascot and whenever they read a story, they can use him to animate his adventures.
Last but not least on the agenda, were the Grade 4s. Each class came to the library and they did a session about bookmarks. The librarian explained what a bookmark is and how to use it and then proceeded to give each student an empty bookmark. They had to draw on it pictures about their favourite books. Not only this, but Merlin Library supplied the school with a number of freebie books, and therefore each child went home with a book and a bookmark.
Besides the above activities, there were other sessions being held throughout the school. The French and Italian departments had book review and book author projects going on, which are at the moment being displayed in the library. The English and Maltese departments, on the other hand, had short stories and fairy tales which are also beng displayed in the library.
It was an eventful week packed with activities and it was clear that the children were enjoying every single bit of it. Reading and story-telling is an enjoyable experience that stimulates and excites one's imagination. Nurturing the latter is as important as having food on the table. Imagination is an essential tool towards the intellectual and emotional development of any individual.