Family Art Afternoons ran over the summer holidays in partnership with Parkhead Nazarene and aimed to create free, fun art sessions in those (often long!) weeks for parents and children. I hoped to introduce new art techniques to the families, while also keeping their school learning fresh and empowering parents to share skills with their children.
With posters for the Summer Reading Challenge all around our local libraries I thought a bookmaking course would be a fun way to tie in with this campaign to keep literacy skills fresh over the long summer break. Bookmaking is such an empowering skill to learn- the confidence storytelling gives a child is substantial- and the additional accomplishment of constructing their own physical book, for others to hold and read can really boost their self-esteem.
The first challenge was to invent a lead role for their narrative. I decided to make this a collage activity (as the year goes on you will soon learn my love for collage and my strongly held beliefs about its role in community arts!) To make their main character easy to reproduce throughout their picture book I knew I was going to have to rely on some sneaky photocopying shortcuts. In keeping with that theme of cut-and-paste reproduction I thought collage would be an effective way to adapt basic characters with new elements. The girls especially rose to this challenge and really got into the spirit of collage’s anarchic fun- making fabulous mad hatter ladies, shopaholics complete with designer handbags and Disney-esque singing, dancing, perfume bottles.
Storytelling and illustration was the theme of weeks two and three. Encouraging the children to plan ahead and be ambitious I was keen to get the bare bones of their stories down on paper- with the option to go back and add later- so that they had something concrete to feel proud of, to read aloud and share. Continuing with collage and introducing paints and other drawing materials the room became a hive of activity! The parents were great at getting alongside their children encouraging them- and very importantly helping with spelling and handwriting! Knowing some of the group were just at the beginning of their journey with written English- I introduced sets of letter stamps to release the pressure of ‘handwriting’ and to open up conversations about the basic alphabet and spelling. There is something about those little wooden blocks and the process of stamping that allows people to return to the tactile, mechanical elements of the printed word. Children laugh as they get a stamp the wrong way round- a ‘d’ becomes a ‘p’ or a ‘G’ and an ‘e’get confused. We all fumble about with the stamps, get smudgy fingers and the pressure around literacy suddenly releases.
Their stories ranged from super-powered footballers to family-loving tigers. Each story formed by little teams of writers from a family throwing themselves into new creative territory. Once covered and paperback bound they enjoyed spending the last week decorating their front covers. As the realisation hit that they were taking home their very own book the group was encouraged to recognise their achievements. Over the month they had not only grown close as a group but families had found quality time for each other and parents had been given a boost. And that is something to be be celebrated, just as much as the art.
“The classes were great for the children to express themselves and meet new people. It was fun and the children learned new skills.”