Braw idea for new chapter in Scottish children's literature

A POPULAR children's author is spearheading a drive to encourage children to learn about their heritage by reading Scottish literature.

Edinburgh-based children's writer Joan Lingard has joined forces with other authors to launch the Braw project, urging schools to promote books written in Scotland to pupils.

Braw - which stands for Books, Reading and Writing - is the brainchild of Ms Lingard, the scheme's patron.

She dreamed up the project after she became concerned that reading Scottish literature was not being pushed enough by schools.

Ms Lingard said more must be done to make the country's young readers aware of Scottish writing.

And schools and the Scottish Executive must play a vital part in firing pupils' interest, she added.

Authors and writing exhibitions are expected to tour schools in every part of the country under the scheme, while books will be given away through the initiative, which was launched in the Capital this week.

The project is also set to promote writing as a worthwhile career which can be pursued in a Scottish child's own country, rather than hundreds of miles away in London.

Other authors involved in the Braw initiative include Keith Gray, Matthew Fitt, Nicola Morgan and Theresa Breslin.

Managed in conjunction with the Scottish Book Trust, Braw will be run from the company's headquarters in the Royal Mile.

Book Trust chief executive Marc Lambert said that it is "absolutely crucial" that more is done to make youngsters aware of the pleasures of reading.

Ms Lingard, who is based in the New Town, said that Scottish writing does not feature in classrooms enough.

"I feel that there has not always been sufficient support in Scotland compared to countries such as Eire and Norway," she said.

"I have found that many schools do not really know about half of the reading that is available.

"I would have expected it to be pushed more.

"A lot of schools use book forums from south of the Border and get a cut from them, which does not encourage children to read Scottish books.

"Perhaps more needs to be done as part of teacher training - maybe they should be made more aware about how they could offer support.

"It's important for them to be aware of the literature of their own country so that they can identify with it.

"It is part of their roots.

"I don't want them to be too narrow, but children should really be aware of their own heritage."

She added: "It could also encourage them to feel that they could be writers if they want to, and shows them that writers don't have to be based in London to be successful. The Scottish Executive should encourage Scottish reading too - I hope that it will give us some support.

"It is important that we go into all schools everywhere and not just in the central belt - this is essential."

The project is still in the early stages and a final programme has not yet been worked out.

However, it is expected to include authors' tours and exhibitions.

The Scottish Arts Council has provided lottery funding, while the Scottish Book Centre is supporting the project.

The group is now looking for further sponsorship from other organisations. Marc Lambert, chief executive of the Scottish Book Trust, said: "There is not enough Scottish materials in schools or libraries, we almost distance ourselves away from it.

"This is also about reading for pleasure and getting that message across at as early an age as possible."

Gavin Wallace, head of literature at the Scottish Arts Council, added: "Scottish writers are increasingly writing books that inspire and catch the imagination of young people.

"Braw will help to introduce more young people in Scotland to their work while also supporting writers' careers."

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