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The power of storytelling makes Reading with Rosie an online lockdown sensation

Rosie Mclaughlin

A Nottinghamshire woman is hoping to become the literary version of PE guru Joe Wicks after launching a series of Jackanory-style storytelling videos which have been watched by children as far away as Australia.

Rosie Mclaughlin, a fundraising and events manager for Embark Federation, a charitable trust of 12 primary schools across Derbyshire, is recording a daily story to keep pupils entertained during lockdown.

The Reading with Rosie videos, which are available on YouTube, are designed to encourage children to pick up a book and have been watched hundreds of times already – with hits from Edinburgh to Essex and even some in Australia.

The Trust decided to record the daily stories as a way of keeping in touch with pupils who are working at home and to encourage them to continue reading to improve their literacy levels and stimulate imaginations.

Rosie was chosen for the concept thanks to her background in acting; before moving into education, she made appearances in the big screen version of Far from the Madding Crowd starring Carey Mulligan and the BBC adaptation of Great Expectations.

The films have been a real team effort with Trust Leader Matthew Crawford supporting some of the filming while Martin Whiteman, a teaching assistant at Kilburn Junior School, which belongs to the trust, has edited the footage.

Rosie, who is mum to three-year-old Ralph and Ruby, six, said:

“Not every child has a parent who can read to them each day, so we thought this was a good way to ensure our pupils were still engaged with books, which can be a wonderful way to escape when we are all stuck at home.

“We’ve tried to make them visually interesting. I deliberately wear bright colours and we’ve filmed them at different locations, including the farm where I live, so there are animals and tractors.

“This is an unstable and anxious time for every family, so we felt it was important to reach out and provide children with a connection outside of their homes. I’ve had some lovely feedback from parents who are delighted their children are listening to a story and it also gives them a five-minute break from home schooling.

“I’ve started to receive requests for specific books too, both from teachers who want to tie the story in with their lessons and from children who have their own suggestions.”

It is not the first time that Embark Federation has willingly shared its resources with other schools.

After the UK’s first lockdown the Trust’s Recovery Curriculum, designed to support pupils when they returned to education after varying experiences of lockdown, garnered interest from around the world.

It was shared with schools by the Department for Education and the Welsh Government and is expected to have an impact on four million children across the UK.

Trust leader at Embark Federation, Matthew Crawford, said:

“Early on in the pandemic, we began to plan ahead, thinking about some of the issues children and families would be facing, which was the inspiration for the Recovery Curriculum.

“We know that our pupils’ experiences of the Covid-19 crisis will be hugely varied, but they would all benefit from spending five minutes a day connecting with their school family and listening to a story.

“Footballer Marcus Rashford is ensuring children are fed and fitness coach Joe Wicks is making sure they exercise. Rosie is ensuring all children are read to and bringing a smile to the faces of children and adults at a time when it is very much needed.”

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