Welcome to the family section – here you can find out about the exciting things which have been going on in Middlesbrough. Why don’t you have a go at some of them?

Some lovely feedback: “Thank you for the fantastic Middlesbrough Reads family activities! We have had fun doing them while developing reading skills. They have really encouraged my son to read – I’m so happy we took part!”

At the beginning of the first coronavirus lockdown in April 2020, Middlesbrough Reads put together a series of 5 Roald Dahl challenges (for EYFS and primary age) for children to do at home.

Once a fortnight, a new activity themed around a different Roald Dahl book and linked to a different room in the home was shared via social media, schools, and council media outlets. There was a chance to win a bundle of Roald Dahl books for each challenge too!

Week One: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – create your own tasty treat

Week Two: James and the Giant Peach – you’re going on a magical journey in a giant peach – write a newspaper report about your travels

Week Three: The BFG – write a diary entry to create a dream jar fit for the BFG

Week Four: George’s Marvellous Medicine – write a recipe for a potion inspired by the book

Week Five: The Twits – it’s time to give the Twits a makeover!

All the challenges are available on the Literacy Trust website.

These challenges had a Facebook reach in excess of 84,000, and were very well received by schools and parents. “Thank you so much for providing these fun, engaging activities based around the brilliant Roald Dahl books! It’s giving us something different to do!”

Middlesbrough Reads teamed up with author Rachael Wong to write a book framing the coronavirus lockdown from the perspective of young people. The story was originally told in a series of five videos over the course of a week on the Middlesbrough Reads Facebook page.

Rachael invited children to suggest ideas as the plot unfolded, and after the final instalment was written, it was put together in an eBook so children could see their ideas transformed into a part of local history.

Middlesbrough Council funded the printing of 1000 copies of the workbook which were given out by schools and foodbanks.

Middlesbrough Reads then launched a drawing competition, to find art which would be included in the published book, thanks to the author. 150 illustrations were shortlisted, and 26 pieces of children’s work were ultimately included in the book.

One thousand copies of the book were printed, with copies delivered to Drake – The Bookshop, posted to the winning illustrators, and donated as a class set for Beech Grove due to their engagement in the competition. A further 6 copies were delivered to every primary school to include in their school library.

“All three of my children took part in the Parmo to the Rescue initiative earlier in the year and we are all so excited that the published version is finally here! Not only is it a great way to tell a community story but it is also a one of our favourite memories during what has been a stressful 2020. It’s amazing that we’ve got something positive to take away from this.” – Middlesbrough parent.

“Well done everyone – what brilliant illustrations!” – Middlesbrough parent.

“I was inspired by the characters’ confidence!” “I like the sibling rivalry between George and Leila!” “The dog, Parmo, is my favourite character!” “I liked that George was like someone I know!” “Parmo to the Rescue helped me to understand what we were going through!” – pupils’ responses

“Our pupils were very surprised to find something so local on our bookshelves!” – Middlesbrough teacher

To keep up family and community engagement with reading over the summer term, in partnership with Middlesbrough Council’s School Readiness team, Middlesbrough Reads came up with 30 fun, engaging activities, suitable for the whole family to join in with.

These were posted on the Family Information Service Facebook page and Middlesbrough Reads Facebook page.

To enter, families posted their photos on Facebook or sent them via email for each challenge, with a daily winner being announced. Over the course of the 30 days, over 500 photos were submitted, with 100 unique children engaged from 70 families. Ten children completed all 30 challenges, and were given a bundle of books and a certificate. Schools and parents appreciated the challenges, and sent some great feedback.

“Thanks again for all the work you have been doing to keep our children reading” – headteacher

“Can’t wait to finish the rest of the challenges” – parent

“These challenges have renewed my children’s enthusiasm for reading thank you!” – parent

The challenges are available to download via the Literacy Trust website.

UK Docks, the Tyneside-based company, which operates two dry docks out of Middlesbrough, won a £150m, 10-year contract to service three Royal Navy ships: HMS Protector, HMS Enterprise, and HMS Echo.

Middlesbrough Reads was invited to meet with the Lieutenant Commander and a Lieutenant responsible for educational programmes to discuss working together.

Over the summer holidays, we ran a photography and writing competition called ‘Life around Teesmouth, the River Tees, and Teesport’.

The Captain, the Lieutenant Commander, the Logistics Officer, and Middlesbrough Reads Manager judged the entries to choose a winner and 5 runners-up. The winner, Charlotte, will be having lunch with the Captain of HMS Protector on the ship’s return from Antarctica in July (coronavirus restrictions permitting). All 6 children received a letter from the Captain, and all photos are being made into an A1 collage which will be taken on HMS Protector’s journey to Antarctica in January 2021. The collage will be photographed in the different ports visited by HMS Protector.

The winning entry is from Charlotte Bailey, a pupil at The Avenue Primary School. Her mum told us that Charlotte is obsessed with Antarctica and is really excited about meeting and talking with people who have actually been there.

‘Transporter Bridge, strong, blue and famous.
Each day boats pass underneath it on the river.
Every time cars want to get across, the carriage takes them over to the other side.
Ships sail out towards the mouth of the Tees.
Seagulls swoop down around Teesport.
Day after day boats travel to and fro.
Everyone here loves Teesside because it is full of life.’

There are so many fabulous books about, how on earth do you know which one to read? In America there are two brothers, The Book Brothers, who review their favourite books on YouTube, and we thought that Middlesbrough children could do that too!

Over October half term, children were asked to record a one minute review of a book they had read recently. They had to make it as persuasive as possible, to encourage others to read it.

Jellisha, age 7, reviewed ‘Rosa and Crystal’ by Julie Sykes and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books UK. This book is about a magical adventure that takes place at Unicorn Academy – it all sounds very exciting!

We thought that Jellisha was set for stardom and she was judged to be the winner, receiving a selection of books.

The National Literacy Trust tweeted Jellisha’s video, and it was retweeted by the author, who also sent her a personal message. You can check out the video on Facebook – it’s had over 2,000 views!

Middlesbrough Reads joined forces with Middlesbrough Council’s School Readiness team to run the 12 Days of Christmas reading challenges. Challenges included families being asked to read in front of a Christmas tree, read with a red nose like Rudolf, and to read outside wearing a scarf and gloves – to name but a few!

Over the twelve days of festive fun, we received over 160 photographs, with 9 children completing all 12 challenges. There were daily prizes and a special bundle for those who completed all 12.

“Thank you for the opportunity that Middlesbrough Reads allows children to enjoy reading while enjoying the fun filled themed competitions!” – Middlesbrough parent

“We have really enjoyed all the competitions and activities during this awful year – can’t wait to see what reading activity will be next!” – Middlesbrough parent

“This year has been the best year for my children as they participated in many activities and been able to discover so many books – thanks for the opportunity and thanks for making a difference to peoples’ lives.” – Middlesbrough parent

Working in partnership with Pip – Disabled Mum, Middlesbrough Reads ran a Christmas letter writing competition.

Father Christmas was making an extra stop in Middlesbrough during the festive season, and children were asked to write a letter telling him all about why they thought he should visit their house. They had to be as persuasive as possible!

Kalnat, age 7, was chosen as the winner, because her letter was full of Christmas spirit and it was selfless – she wanted to bring joy to her family, as her mum had been shielding, and she wanted to see the excitement and smile on her little sister’s face.

Kalnat and her sister received a tower of books from Father Christmas and one of his elves during Christmas week. Two runners-up received a visit from one of Santa’s Elves.