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Book dreams become reality for school pupils

Leeds Beckett University has launched its own publishing company in a bid to offer a more diverse range of literature for children.

nightmare catcher

Pictured: Beeston Primary pupils read The Nightmare Catcher (picture copyright Yorkshire Post Newspapers)

The Story Makers Press is working with established authors and schools from across the region to create a diverse range of books by generating ideas through drama and creative writing workshops.

Based at the university’s Carnegie School of Education, the Press has now launched its first book, The Nightmare Catcher, after working alongside pupils at Beeston Primary in Leeds.

Dr Tom Dobson, co-author of The Nightmare Catcher and Deputy Director of Story Makers Press, said the children’s ideas helped to create a story that reflects real children’s experiences.

“The protagonist, for example, is a gamer and the children were able to draw upon their love of gaming to develop authentically his character and the gaming world,” Tom said. “There were things the children came up with that I could never have thought of.”

Lisa Stephenson, Director of Story Makes Press, said she hopes the Press will help improve diversity and meaningful representation in children’s literature.

“I clearly remember my own son asking me why all the superheroes had blonde hair, fair skin and looked different to him,” she said.

“We know from our research with schools that the imaginative experience of exploring stories through drama, theatre and creative writing can bring a story alive and develop active opportunities for children to explore characters and motives.

“Children can also bring their own voices to the story, the ideas that matter to them. This kind of learning can offer opportunities for developing empathy, compassion and celebrating difference. It is also highly motivational for young people because they feel valued.”

The Nightmare Catcher follows the fortunes of a young child who escapes his troubled life into a world of gaming, becoming the powerful warrior Drift, carrying out quests in the land of Lyf.

Bethan Tidey, Deputy Headteacher at Beeston Primary, said: “Working with the Story Makers Press has been great from start to finish.

“All of the pupils involved have been given a voice and through engaging and exciting drama workshops they have been able to contribute towards a story which is relevant and meaningful.

“They are immensely proud of themselves and so they should be."

Illustrations for the book were completed by Leeds Beckett student Anisha Cosgrove as part of her final year studies in Graphic Arts & Design.

Andrew Du Feu, Senior Lecturer at the School of Art, Architecture & Design, said Anisha was commissioned by The Story Makers Press after winning an illustration competition.

“Her professional and committed approach to the project was impressive,” said Andrew.

“Due to the collaborative nature of the story development and the feedback loops where content was reviewed, Anisha had to regularly respond to change but in doing so gained fantastic experience that will undoubtedly be beneficial to her emerging career.”

Author Sita Brahmachari, winner of the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, is among established writers who will be working with the Press and is currently collaborating on a rewriting of a traditional South Asian fairy tale involving a group of young Muslim girls from a Bradford school.

The Press is part of the Story Makers Company, which was set up in 2017 at the Carnegie School of Education, alongside teachers and artists.

Ana Arêde, the Publisher for Story Makers Press, said: “Often, children do not often see themselves in the stories they encounter.

“The Story Makers Company and Press were created as a way to redress the lack of diversity in children’s literature and give children a voice.

“The Press is dedicated to working with young people to publish stories that matter to them.

“Creatively inclusive, we aim to publish underrepresented narratives and issues to make sure that every child can see themselves in the books they read.”

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