The Reading Force team asked me if I’d be available to work with forces children at Hornbill School in Brunei in March this year. As a forces child myself, I was delighted to hear more about Reading Force; how it encourages families to read together, talk about books and fill in scrapbooks about the books they’ve shared. Families do this together at home and when a parent is away on deployment or exercise.
After our 16-hour flight to Brunei, we - Alison Baverstock and Elaine Boorman from Reading Force and I - were met at the airport and whisked off to our hotel by Terri Turton, the trip’s organiser at Hornbill School. The next day she returned to take us on a boat trip. We visited the floating village in Bandar and searched up river in mangrove swamps for crocodiles and proboscis monkeys. Tom Palmer, the other UK-based author, flew in that evening.
Hornbill School (OFSTED outstanding) is in the centre of the HQ Brunei Garrison community, BFPO 11. It caters for a wonderful mix of children, as it is the result of a very successful merger in 2003 of the Seria Service Children’s School and the Gurkha Children’s English School. While we were visiting, many of the fathers were away on exercise in Kenya.
The school day at Hornbill starts early and finishes at 1.30pm before it gets too hot. So we were collected at 7am each morning, and driven past white egrets hunting for frogs on grass verges, past the teapot roundabout, to Hornbill School.
On the first day, we were greeted royally by being given a bindi and a Nepalese silk scarf, and entertained by a wonderful drumming session. Then we were shown round the stunning school grounds which included the ‘Peace Garden’ full of palm trees, cloud-shaped bougainvillea and frangipani bushes.
My role as a picture book author was to inspire the children from Nursery to Year 2 with interactive reading sessions including songs and roleplay, and writing workshops.
In this class, the children drew their own story, following the pattern in my Bare Bear story that we had just shared.
In another class I shared a story about Billy Bear and his favourite toy rabbit. As you can see, on that day the teachers and children were all dressed up as characters from books! After the story the children designed their own rabbits.
I finished the week with a percussion extravaganza in the hall with the whole of Year 2, based around my book Junglesong.
By the end of the week, every child in the school had had two sessions with either Tom Palmer or me, and had also been given one of our books by Reading Force. Here are some children reading Doctor Molly’s Magic Medicine Case.
My days at Hornbill were both full and colourful, and I had an amazing time working with all the wonderful children and the warm, dedicated staff.
Thank you so much for asking me to come with you Reading Force!
Miriam Moss is an award winning author of over 75 books, including 30 picture books, poetry and short stories, with wide experience of working creatively with children and adults throughout the UK and abroad. Miriam's latest picture book is 'Doctor Molly’s Medicine Case' (Walker Books). www.miriammoss.com
Picture above: Miriam Moss (far right) standing next to Alison Baverstock (Reading Force founder), RF team member Elaine Boorman, and children's author, Tom Palmer.