Green Pencil Award-winner 2022 is announced!

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for the 2022, Year of Stories, Green Pencil creative writing competition is Lukas Bell of Boroughmuir High School with his poem, Foggy Bummer.

We invite you to listen to a special recording of Lukas’ poem read by poet, Roshni Gallagher –

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High

You can hear all four of our finalists read their highly commended entries in yesterday’s blog post.

Green Pencil Award 2022

A big thank you to all the children and young people who entered the Green Pencil creative writing competition. We enjoyed reading all your writing.

For this year’s theme – Year of Scotland’s stories – P4-P7 aged children and young people in S1-3 were challenged to write a poem, piece of prose or story on the theme.

Once again, we were unable to hold an awards ceremony in Central Library, so here instead, you can listen to the finalists read their highly commended entries in these special Green Pencil videos.

Congratulations to all our talented finalists!

Hannah, St George’s: Can we stop it now?

Can we stop it now? by Hannah from St George’s School

Zara Shaw, Ratho Primary: The Difference We Can Make for Climate Change

The difference we can make for climate change by Zara Shaw from Ratho Primary School

Amber Rose Redpath, The Royal High: Mother Nature

Mother Nature by Amber Rose Redpath from The Royal High

Lukas Bell, Boroughmuir High: Foggy Bummer

Foggy Bummer by Lukas Bell from Boroughmuir High School

Come back tomorrow when the winner will be revealed…

Teddy bears sleepover at Central Library

Last week there was a special teddy bears sleepover at Central Children’s Library.
When the children arrived with their teddies, they all enjoyed a storytime together.

Teddy bear story time for children at Central Library.

And then they went on a bear hunt… looking for a bear…One shiny nose, two big eyes…
Oh, no, it’s a …. bear!

Run, run, all the way home!

A story time at Central Library acting out a "bear hunt".

But not before there’s time for some bear crafts, making teddy bear bookmarks.

Children are sat around a table doing crafts.
A group of teddy bears are colouring in festive drawings.

And a tasty snack before bedtime.

The children had one last story with the teddies before putting the teddies to bed. Move over Santa Teddy and make some room for the others.

Teddy bears getting into their tent bed.

Night night Maisy
Night night Teddy
Night night Little Teddy and night night Busy Bee
Night night Santa Teddy and sweet dreams Maxie
Night night and sleep tight Kai.
We’ll come and get you in the morning.

All snuggled up for sleep…

AAhhhh. Sweet dreams –

But wait a second, what’s going on? The teddies have got out of bed and they’re playing board games and doing crafts.

A group of teddy bears playing board games.

Teddy switched on the computer in the craft room, what were you trying to find teddies?

A group of teddy bears gathered around a computer screen.

They played hide and seek. Busy Bee had a very good hiding spot!

A cuddly bee toy half hidden under a settee.

Then it’s competition time. Who can climb the highest?

A group of teddy bears sat or climbing onto a settee.

They made a new friend – Santa Penguin.

A group of teddy bears on book shelves positioned around a cuddly penguin toy in a Santa costume.

At last the bears are sleepy and they get ready for bed!
Little Teddy is making sure everyone is brushing their teeth!

Little Teddy watches over while the other teddies brush their teeth.

Finally, it’s back to the tent where there’s time for one last bedtime story.

The teddies gather round to read a story.

When the teddies were asleep they had a special visitor!  Santa came and brought some lovely books for everyone!

 A surprise visitor arrives in the library!

Night, night everyone, we can’t wait to tell the children what fun we’ve had.

Morning sleepy heads… it’s breakfast time.

The teddies are lined up to eat their breakfast cereal.

Let’s choose some books for children to borrow from the library. Maisy is stamping all the books with Madeleine.

A member of library staff helps to issue library books to the teddies.

And here they are, waiting for the children to arrive to take them home.

The teddies are sitting in a line on yellow chairs while they wait.

Maths Week Scotland

Maths Week Scotland is here and runs until 2 October! #MathsWeekScot is a celebration of the importance of maths in our everyday lives.

Lots of schools and businesses are taking part in Maths Week Scotland 2022, including some of our libraries, here are the details:

Leith Library are taking inspiration from artist Paul Klee who created over 10,000 pieces of art. He loved to create city landscapes with buildings, bridges and other structures using 2D shapes, such as squares and rectangles.
Join them on Friday 30 September at 2pm to create a piece of art using coloured 2D shapes in the same style. How about creating an artwork of Leith, Edinburgh, or another favourite place!

Moredun Library are running an all day Maths Scavenger Hunt on Wednesday 28 September. They have number themed Bookbug sessions on Thursday 29 September at 10am and 11am and a Lego Maths challenge at 3.30pm. If that’s not enough for you, they are also have some activity packs you can take home.

Oxgangs Library will be constructing models of man-made structures, influenced or inspired by the natural environment on Saturday 1 October at 2pm and tickets can be booked via Eventbrite at:
Maths Week Scotland 2022 Tickets, Sat 1 Oct 2022 at 2pm

Portobello Library has a numbers-based treasure trail, a guess how many Lego pieces in the jar competition and their weekly storytime will feature some number themed tales.

Stockbridge Library will be running a Maths themed Scavenger Hunt for the whole week and Bookbug will be sharing number rhymes on Saturday 1 October at 10.30am.

Sighthill Library will be adding lots of number songs and rhymes to their Friday morning Bookbug session at 10.45am on 30 September.

More activities are available online at the Maths Week Scotland website.

We also have some amazing Maths themed titles for children available on Libby.

Green Pencil 2022 in Scotland’s Year of Stories

On behalf of Edinburgh Libraries’ ‘Green Pencil’ Team, we would like to say “thank you” to all our schools, teachers and pupils, who took part in Green Pencil 2021, making it a truly successful competition.

Today we launch Green Pencil 2022 and hope for just as many fantastic entries!

Our environmentally themed creative writing competition, is open to all P4 to P7 aged children and young people in S1 to S3 in Edinburgh. The deadline for entries is 21 October 2022.

We’re taking the ‘Year of Scotland’s Stories’ as our theme. Are you a budding story writer? Could you write a story/ poem/ prose with an environmental theme? It could be about yourself, your pet, a special place or your favourite animal that relates to your life in Scotland. You could include Scotland’s landscapes, lochs, towns and villages.  A story or poem that captures the reader’s imagination, piques interest and brings your writing to life.

Entries can be poetry, prose or story, all we ask is that the writing is the author’s own work and is no longer than one side of A4 paper.

Update November 2022

We would like to apologise to our Finalists, but due to circumstances outwith our control we are unable to host a face to face event for Green Pencil 2022.

We will do our utmost to bring back this special live event in the future.

We will be producing the Green Pencil brochure where all Finalists’ work will be printed and these will be sent to schools in the new year.

Our 4 Highly Commended Finalists will have the opportunity to record their work and these will be read out online, and will be featured here on our Tales of One City blog.

The date for this online event will be forwarded to all Highly Commended Finalists shortly.

Join the Children’s Art Club!

Are you aged between 8 and 12 years old? Do you like to make things?

If so, then please be in touch! Send us an email at:
or give us a ring on 0131 242 8040.

We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12 noon at Central Library.

Term time sessions to begin on the 10 September 2022.

Our plans are for a free programme of creative play and learning – a time to explore art-making – build and foster curiosity, care, and consideration – and hopefully an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Summer Reading Challenge 2022 – Gadgeteers!

This year’s Summer Reading Challenge for children has started!

The theme this year is Gadgeteers, a science and innovation themed challenge that will spark children’s curiosity about the world around them.

We invite children aged 4 to 11 to take up the challenge of reading six books during the summer holidays. Children can register to take part at any of our libraries.

You can include library ebooks and audiobooks from our Library2go service in the challenge and there is a special collection of Gadgeteers themed titles available to borrow on Libby. Complete all six books to receive the challenge prizes including a finisher’s medal and certificate.

The Summer Reading Challenge runs until Wednesday 31 August.

Gadgeteers is brought to you by Edinburgh Libraries and The Reading Agency.

Don’t forget to drop into your local library or keep an eye on their Facebook page for information about activities and events for children throughout the holidays.

A group of six cartoon children characters pictured in amongst large cogs.

Art makes us with Art Buds Collective

Edinburgh Libraries are teaming up with Edinburgh Art Festival to host art workshops for children this August delivered by Art Buds Collective.

Inspired by the diverse wildlife, histories and geographies of the Union Canal, we’ll use art to imagine a more planet friendly future.

Free artist-led workshops for children and families across the city – and on the water – will take you on a journey filled with sensory fun and big environmental questions. Use your creativity to rethink local green spaces and waterways and dream up a better world. Get set for adventures – exploring sound, movement, sculpture and sustainable art-making.
Book for these workshops via

Art Buds workshop, Edinburgh Art Festival 2021. Photo: Sally Jubb

Shapes in the city – invent, construct, climb!
Make huge, recycled sculptures inspired by bridges, tunnels and waterways! Created for ages 5 – 12. Parents of under 8s must book a place.

Tuesday 2 August, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Central Library, George IV Bridge, EH1 1EG (SOLD OUT)

Tuesday 9 August, 10.30am – 12.30pm
Fountainbridge Library, 137 Dundee St, EH11 1BG

Friday 19 August, 1pm – 3pm
Wester Hailes Library, 1 Westside Plaza, EH14 2ST

Sounds in the city  – listen, sculpt, get noisy!
Make sound sculptures in the garden, give a noisy performance, then finish with homemade pizza! Created for ages 4 – 8 and their families.

Friday 12 August, 11am – 1pm, Johnston Terrace Wildlife Garden, Johnston Terrace, EH1 2JT, limited access

Wonder on the water – investigate, make, fly your flag!
Set sail on a boat along the canal as we create maps and flags inspired by the history of our waterways. You might even spot some wildlife! Created for ages 4 – 10 and their families.

Friday 5 August, 3 – 5pm, departs from Union Canal at Leamington Lift Bridge, Leamington Road, EH3 9PD, wheelchair friendly and toilet onboard

Book your free tickets at Edinburgh Art Festival. To discuss access requirements, please contact

Art Buds Collective is a social enterprise dedicated to the delivery of sustainable arts education for children across Edinburgh. Creativity, the creative journey and protecting the planet are at the heart of their workshops. Follow Art Buds Collective on Instagram at @art_buds_collective

The Central Library Children’s Art Club is back!

Are you aged 8-12 years old? Do you like to make things?
If so, then please be in touch! Send us an email at:
or give us a ring on 0131 242 8040.

We’re hoping to restart the sessions on a fortnightly basis, provisionally on a Saturday morning from 10.30am – 12pm at the Central Library.
Term-time sessions to begin on the 10 September 2022.

Our plans are for a free programme of creative play and learning – a time to explore art-making – build curiosity, kindness, and wellbeing – and hopefully foster an ever more creative relationship with the world around us.

We look forward to hearing from you!

We’re also running three summer workshops at the beginning of July:

5 July, 2 – 4pm – Printmaking with paper: the seashore!

6 July, 2 – 4pm – Constructing castles: modelmaking with recycled materials

7 July, 2 – 3.15pm – Funky plant pot découpage

Please book a free place online for these summer sessions via
If you have any queries, please contact the Art and Design Library by phone on 0131 242 8040 or email

We Make Music Instrument Libraries

We’re delighted to be part of We Make Music Instrument Libraries, a brand new initiative to get musical instruments into public libraries across Scotland.

People will be able to borrow an instrument for free, just like taking out a book. The programme is in libraries in Fife, North Ayrshire and Edinburgh, and across other areas in future. In Edinburgh, there will be six libraries taking part covering different areas of the city: Craigmillar, Drumbrae, Moredun, Muirhouse, Wester Hailes and the Music Library at Central Library.

The libraries will stock a wide variety of instruments from guitars, keyboards and ukuleles, to violins, trombones and orchestral instruments, as well as music software and midi keyboards so people can make music on library computers. Each library is paired with a local music project or the local authority’s instrumental music service, and all of the libraries are keen to build links with other local music groups, schools, community projects and venues. 

The project has launched a crowdfunding campaign, with a call-out for donations of both money and musical instruments, to help fill the libraries with as many musical instruments and learning resources as possible. All money will go towards buying, repairing and servicing donated instruments so they are in good condition for the libraries, as well as music software and midi keyboards for making music on library computers. They also want to offer music workshops and introductory lessons, develop online resources and organise live music events in and around the libraries. The more money raised, and the more instruments people donate, the more new music libraries will open up around Scotland!

If you want to give your old musical instrument a new lease of life by donating it to the We Make Music Instrument Libraries project, please email

Green Pencil Award-winner 2021

We’re thrilled to announce the winning entry for the 2021 Green Pencil creative writing competition on the theme of Climate Change is ‘We need to stop this now!’ by Alfie Ross, from St. Mary’s Primary School.

And we’re delighted to invite you to listen to a specially recorded reading of Alfie’s poem by poet, Jeda Pearl Lewis.
Here is, ‘We need to stop this now!’

The winning entry for the 2021 Green Pencil creative writing award, ‘We need to stop this now!’ by Alfie Ross, is read by poet, Jeda Pearl Lewis.

You can enjoy all four of our finalists read their highly commended entries in yesterday’s blog post.

Green Pencil Award 2021

A big thank you to all the children and young people who entered the Green Pencil creative writing competition. We enjoyed reading all your writing.

This year’s theme tackled a very hot topic – climate change. P4-P7 aged children and young people in S1-3 were challenged to write a poem, piece of prose or story on the theme.

Once again, we were unable to hold an awards ceremony in Central Library, so here instead, you can listen to the finalists read their highly commended entries in these special Green Pencil videos.

Congratulations to all our talented finalists!

Raghav Palanivel from Corstorphine Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘A kid’s cry for justice’.
Alex Cook Ribes from Hermitage Park Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘Mother Earth’.
Alfie Ross from St. Mary’s Primary School reads his highly commended poem ‘We need to stop this now!’
Lulah Thomson from Wardie Primary School reads her highly commended poem ‘My Highland Home’.

Come back tomorrow when the winner will be revealed…

P is for…. Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf

When I was 8, I remember having a violin lesson one afternoon at school. I remember the practice room, and my teacher, Mr Chambers. He was a tall man; long and elegant, sprucely dressed, and – my unrefined 8 year-old self knew only too well – he really didn’t like giving violin lessons to children. That afternoon though, he began to draw little pictures all over the top of the music I was practising. He drew the sun, animals, and a hill; and together, to go with that piece of music I was so badly playing, we made up a story. Something happened then, and I understood. Sound could capture all of these things: a running animal; the height of a hill, what high is, what running is; light and colour… Everything. Emotion – and it was a revelation to me.

In 1936, Natalia Sats, the spirited director of the Moscow Central Children’s Theatre, approached Sergei Prokofiev with a commission. She wanted a symphonic tale for children, a pedagogical work to introduce the different instruments of the orchestra. They sat and ate apples together, and thought about how a duck might move if it were sound – how it would quack; how a bird might fly (Natalia Sats suggested the flute to characterise the bird); how the cat might climb a tree. The original text was written by a young poet, but Prokofiev rejected it. It was too clichéd, he thought, and he took on the work himself.

Listen to Peter and the Wolf on Naxos Music Library

And so, amidst a flurry of ideas, in a four-day sprint, Prokofiev put his composition together. The following week he orchestrated it, and that was that. In the 1930s there was a demand for works for children, he wrote in his diaries, and so he got to work. Then he charged the theatre a fee of whatever they could afford. For him, it was a present: for the young pioneer audience in their red neckerchief ties and badges; and for his two sons. He shared an affinity with children, and of course, the piece has become an integral part of many childhoods, and many children’s understanding of music.

Peter (the string instruments) is our hero. He opens the gate to the meadow and walks on through. A clarinet (the cat) tries to catch a flute (the bird), and a bassoon (Peter’s grandfather) biffs Peter on the nose for wandering off to a place where there might be French horns (a wolf). The wolf arrives, huge and grey, the strings shimmer, and the brassy sounds grow big.

In 1936, a darkness was unravelling in Stalinist Russia. Prokofiev had just returned from years abroad in Paris and New York, but it was also the beginnings of the Moscow show trials against prominent old Bolshevik leaders, and Stalin’s Great Purge. The following year, in August 1937, Natalia Sats was arrested, interrogated, and sentenced to 5 years in a Siberian work camp as the wife of a traitor of the motherland. Socialist realism was to be at the forefront of all art, and Prokofiev increasingly found himself currying favour with the regime, and towing party lines. Can Peter and the Wolf be read as an allegory? Is it also about the youth and the old? External threats, the fear and the danger beyond the gate and over in the meadow? Perhaps, perhaps not.

Interestingly, Peter and the Wolf has a different history in Russia than in the west. It’s vaguer there in a Russian memory of childhood. In the west, it took a different turn. Disney’s animation is certainly significant in its popularisation – I watched it on youtube for this blog, all 15 wonderful minutes of it. Prokofiev visited Los Angeles in 1938 and met Walt Disney there, “le papa de Mickey Mouse”, he called him in a letter to his sons, and initially Walt Disney thought the piece might be a good fit for Fantasia. But World War II arrived, and with all that that entailed Peter and the Wolf wasn’t released until 1946 as part of the film medley, Make Music Mine, with Sterling Holloway as its narrator. In Disney’s version, each character is given a name – there is Ivan the cat, Sasha the bird, Sonia the duck – and in the end, Sonia the duck isn’t eaten after all.

There is also a more recent stop-motion animation that the animator Suzie Templeton made in the Polish Se-ma-for studios in Łódź in 2006. It won several awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 2008. I’ve hunted around as to where to watch it, and Apple TV have it, although there is a rental cost of £1.49. Well worth it though, I think. In an interview for (an excellent) Archive on 4 on Peter and the Wolf, Suzie Templeton speaks of how the first thing she did was draw a picture of Peter, and how it turned out to be a picture of a troubled boy. She also wanted him to be a hero, and talks of how catching a wild animal now means a very different thing to catching a wild animal in 1930s Russia. It’s not such a heroic thing to do.

Listen to Peter and the Wolf with David Bowie narrating on Naxos Music Library

One last thing I’d like to mention is the long sparkly line of celebrity narrators. Everyone who’s anyone seems to have narrated Peter and the Wolf. The narration sits in some deep warm place from childhood. My favourite is David Bowie’s but that’s only because that’s the version I’ve heard most. Dig about, there are, of course, a lot. Our music streaming service Naxos has many Prokofien treats, as has Medici TV.

Health information for children and young people

For Health Information Week, we highlight useful resources to support the health and wellbeing of children and young people.

Book lists for young people to support mental health and wellbeing
Edinburgh Libraries have partnered with Young Scot to allow Escape, Connect, Relate, our school librarian’s wellbeing book lists, to reach as many of our young citizens as possible. Explore the lists to find books on a wide range of topics including abuse, stress, body image, diversity, relationships, depression and much more.

Information resources for Children and Young People’s health and wellbeing
We’ve also pulled together some handy reference websites giving support and guidance for children and young people on issues ranging from the pandemic and mental health to nutrition and dental hygiene.

  • CBeebies – Get Well Soon – various songs and interactive activities for children about health and hospitals featuring Dr Ranj. Also includes information for parents about how to talk to their child/children about going to hospital.
  • Health for kids – provides interactive games and activities for kids on various topics such as dental hygiene, feelings and getting help. Also has a parent’s section providing advice and information.
  • Hope Again – aimed at young people who have experienced loss or bereavement, contains various videos and personal stories to support young people.
  • Join the Movement from Sport England – a collection of links to various exercise activities for children such as Cosmic Yoga, BBC Supermovers, and Disney workouts and also includes links to exercises for young wheelchair users and young people with limb difference.
    Follow Sport England on Twitter and Facebook
  • Young Minds – aims to tackle mental health issues amongst young people. Covers issues such as exam stress, body image, loneliness and coping with mental illness.
    Follow Young Minds on Twitter and Facebook

Summer Reading Challenge 2021 – Wild World Heroes

The Summer Reading Challenge has arrived! This year’s theme is Wild World Heroes – a celebration of nature to inspire children to explore ways of helping to save the planet.

Children can join the fun online or visit one of our reopened libraries to register and take part. We invite children aged 4 to 11 to take up the challenge of reading six books during the summer holidays. 

You can include library ebooks and audiobooks from our Library2go service in the challenge. Complete all six books by Saturday 31st August to receive a finisher’s medal and certificate.

Keep an eye on the Children and Young People at Edinburgh Libraries’ Facebook page to find out about Scotland-wide author events and online activities from your local library.

Wild World Heroes is brought to you by Edinburgh Libraries and The Reading Agency.

Bringing physics to Edinburgh Libraries’ Children and Young People

Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Service, do just that…we provide information and services.  We also highly value our partnerships where we can share resources to the benefit of our customers. One of these partnerships has developed into a gift that keeps on giving. Networking is key to building connections and it was during one of these events we met Dr Jean-Christophe Denis (JC), NBIC and Ogden Outreach Officer at Edinburgh University.

This chance meeting turned into a solid connection where JC works with Edinburgh Libraries to bring the joy of physics to our Children and Young People (CYP), JC introduced us to Dr Kirsty Ross who taught our CYP the magic of science using nanoparticles and now his introduction to Amy Cook bringing stories and fun to STEM.  All of which we can share with our CYP. Below Amy tells us a bit about herself and why she loves reading and physics and how they work together.

“I am a 4th year Astrophysics student at the University of Edinburgh and have always been fascinated by space. However, if I hadn’t chosen to study Astrophysics at university I would have chosen English. It was up there with Physics as one of my favourite subjects but I decided that I didn’t want to study it as I wanted to make sure that reading and writing always remained an enjoyable and relaxing activity for me. I have always loved reading and almost always have a book on the go – and have done from a young age. I have always enjoyed reading books in the fantasy genre – I still have all my copies of the Harry Potter series that have been very well thumbed! I still really enjoy any good fantasy or science fiction series. Some favourites of mine have got to be The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini (I liked this so much I wrote my English A-Level coursework on it!), the Wayfarers series by Becky Chambers and The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit books – these last books are definitely for the more ambitious reader though. Incidentally, these are all available in the library catalogue if anyone wants to give them a read!

I am naturally curious, which lends itself to being a scientist very well, but is also very beneficial for those who love to read, write and generally be creative. Being creative is definitely an aspect of science that isn’t very well known but it’s very important! I chose to use creative writing as a key part of the development of this project as I myself am a keen writer. I used to do a lot of writing when I was in school, but since coming to university it has fallen by the wayside as I’ve been preoccupied with university work (which rarely includes writing creatively). In order to “flex my creative muscles”, I decided that creating a project joining physics and storytelling was the way I would feel really passionate about what I was creating and, most importantly, I would enjoy doing it!

It was easy to decide on doing a space related story as space is the thing I love to talk about the most in physics. It was hard to decide what space topic to focus on but during my research I found out about an influential astronomer from the 1700s, Caroline Herschel, who overcame many challenges in order to discover several comets and become the first professional female astronomer. As a female student studying in this field, I found her story inspiring and decided that this topic was perfect. Forces was a little more tricky to decide on, but Isaac Newton is arguably one of the most important figures in the history of physics as his discoveries led to what is now known as Classical (or Newtonian) Physics. Forces and Newton’s laws of motion are at the heart of physics today, so why not implement them into a story?

I really hope that you enjoy my stories and that you can participate in the follow up activities and really get the most out of them. Reading and writing is something that everyone deserves to enjoy as it’s the most wonderful form of escapism – and if it teaches you physics at the same time? Well, that’s a bonus!”

Here are the links to Amy’s stories and activities:
Forces Fiona and the Laws of Motion story

Forces Fiona and the Laws of Motion activities

Spaceman Sam Story

Spaceman Sam and the Solar System activities

Reading together whilst apart – using picture books in your online calls

In today’s blog, Catherine from Muirhouse Library, (currently attached to Kirkliston Library) and an illustrator, gives some handy tips and advice for reading together whilst apart.

We’re all getting so used to Zoom calls with friends and family, but it can be difficult to find a way to keep little people in the room when they’re so busy bobbing around doing their own thing. There are fantastic online storytelling sessions available and lots of families have been enjoying these together. But if you’re on a video call with your own family, and especially if you want to keep a connection alive with a wee one who’s far away this winter, you have the perfect opportunity to tailor a reading experience to your child’s exact preferences. Make it funny, make it chatty, make it musical, make it silly – give it a shot and see what books can bring to your Zoom call!

Illustration by Catherine Lindow

Choosing a book
Little ones won’t cut you any slack if their attention starts to wander while you’re reading, so the safest choice is a book that is bold and attention-grabbing. Interactivity is brilliant onscreen. It gives both readers a role and keeps your listener hooked into the plot while they wait for ‘their bit’.

Some books are written so that it’s clear when each person speaks – try ‘There’s a Dragon in your Book’ by Tom Fletcher/Greg Abbott – or ‘Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus’ by Mo Willems. In other books, you just can’t resist joining in. ‘All Join In!’ by Quentin Blake is great for this. Animal noises are also good – ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ by Julia Donaldson/Lydia Monks will work well. You probably have others in your household – don’t rule out the option of reading a book that is already familiar to the child. Having it read by a different person is really satisfying!

Humour is a winner when you have a small wriggly person to entertain. ‘Danny McGee Drinks the Sea’ by Andy Stanton/Neal Layton is a fantastic read-aloud, with a punchy rhyming text that little ones love. Theresa Heapy & Sue Heap’s ‘Very Little Red Riding Hood’ has a really funny toddler main character that brings out the silly voice in any reader; older siblings especially will laugh their socks off. And the ‘Oi Frog’ series (Kes Gray/Jim Field) is always popular– you’ll have a job getting through without snorting with laughter yourself.

Big bold illustrations are much easier to see than soft detailed ones when you are holding a book up to a camera, so opt for something punchy and visible. Read any by Morag Hood, or Jon Klassen’s pictures read really well onscreen – try I want my hat back or ones written by Mac Barnett.

Rhyming texts are also fab – pick any Julia Donaldson title, or how about Mike Nicholson’s ‘Thistle Street’ series (illustrated by Clare Keay), for rhyming text in Scots. Don’t be shy about getting a saucepan and a spoon out and using them to beat out a simple rhythm while you read – and your little reading partner at the other end of the call can do the same! An all-time winner for rhyme is ‘The Giant Jam Sandwich’ by John Vernon Lord and Janet Burroway, but watch out for the fantastically detailed illustrations. Hold them right up to the camera for best effect.

Before your storytime
Look at the book by yourself beforehand. It can really help to be familiar with the story, so you can read confidently while holding the book up to the camera.

Which are the important bits of the illustrations? If some of the story is told in the pictures, make sure you hold that bit of the page up to the camera so that it can be seen at the right moment.

Are you going to put on a different voice for any of the characters? If you enjoy doing that, it’s easier if you know beforehand when you’re going to do it. If you want to be really organized you can put little sticky page markers against the bits you need the voices for. This makes it easier to spot if you are reading upside down or from the side of the page!

Check how the whole set-up looks onscreen and make sure your listener can see the illustrations properly. If there’s a reflection on the page, if it’s lit from behind or if the book is too far away, it won’t be visible to the child. Be prepared to ‘zoom in’ on important or entertaining details within the pictures and decide beforehand what those are. This is a great way to change the pace – like showing a close-up in a film.

During the storytime
Use any way you can think of to make it easy for the child to listen. It’s very different from the close-in, physical experience of reading a book together on a sofa, so you have to work a wee bit harder to replace that. It’s nice for them to know they’re under no pressure. If you tell them up front it’s just something to try out, you haven’t lost anything. If you’re feeling flexible you could offer them a choice of a couple of titles, and tell them what’s good about each one.

You can give the child clues for things to look out for: ‘We’re going to see a cow in this book. What does a cow say?’ and that sort of thing. If they know they’ll get a chance to add sound effects it’s already a winner.

While you’re reading, your face can be part of the story too. You can pop round the side of the book and show by your expression that you think the dog licking the ice-cream is being naughty, or that you’re sleepy and yawning just like the main character. Switching between showing whole double spreads of the book, showing close-ups of the illustration details and showing your own face in shot are your three main options for changing the pace and keeping the visual interest. Of course it’s also brilliant if you’re reading to a little family member and you want to show them your friendly face as part of the package!

The most important thing of all!
Don’t aim to read for very long. Short. Is. Sweet. Lots of books invite conversation afterwards if they still have energy, or do you know any songs that tie in with what you’ve just read? ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’ could pair up with ‘What the Ladybird Heard’ – with pictures of animals held up to the camera at just the right moment!

When you have a book in your hand, you have a huge resource-pool for your onscreen chats, however you choose to use it. You don’t even need to read the whole story if there’s a single picture that you think your reading partner will love. It’s a great tool and a lovely way to link in with the real-life experiences you can have when you and the wee one are able to snuggle up together on that sofa once again.

Green Pencil Award-winner 2020

We’re delighted to announce the winning entry for this year’s Green Pencil creative writing competition, is Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin from Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce.

Now sit back, listen and enjoy a specially recorded reading of Rosanna’s winning poem by poet, Michael Pederson.

Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin, read by Michael Pedersen

And in case you missed it, here’s a link to yesterday’s Green Pencil blog post where all four of our finalists’ brilliant nature writing are available to listen online.

Green Pencil Award 2020

A huge thank you to everyone who submitted their entry to this year’s Green Pencil creative writing competition.

We couldn’t avoid the topic of year, so this 2020’s Green Pencil writing theme was Scotland’s nature in lockdown.

The competition was open to all P4-P7 aged children in Edinburgh and, once again, to young people in S1-3. Entries could be poetry, prose or story.

In normal times, we would host an awards ceremony for the finalists at Central Library but of course, current restrictions meant that couldn’t go ahead. Instead, here you can listen to our finalists read their highly commended entries against specially made Green Pencil nature videos.

First though, a message from last year’s Green Pencil winner, Charlotte Schegel to this year’s finalists:

A message to this year’s finalists from Green Pencil 2019 winner, Charlotte Schlegel

Now we invite you to enjoy the nature writing from our super talented finalists:

COVID-19 Lockdown by Amelia Goodacre from Bonaly Primary School
Summertime in lockdown by Rosanna Jerdin from Bun-sgoil Taobh na Pàirce
Jailed in our houses by Nicky Sim, Boroughmuir High School
Notice nature by Callie Walker from The Royal High School

Come back tomorrow when the winning entry will be revealed!

All of Us: Advice and Support for Families

We invited Carla, NSPCC Scotland campaigns manager, to tell us about a new campaign, All of Us being run with Edinburgh Child Protection Committee.

Carla and Sheen in front of All of  Us banner

NSPCC Scotland campaigns manager Carla (Left) and Sheena, Children and Families, Social Worker in Edinburgh, at All of Us community events

Looking after a child can be a challenge for all parents at times but even more so in recent months with social-distancing measures put in place to contain Covid-19.

The lack of respite from children’s needs or relationship strains will have taken their toll on many parents; some will have lost their jobs and be experiencing financial difficulties and there will be those who have suffered illness and bereavement.

These pressures and anxieties will have been intensified by the fact that families were having to cope without access to their usual support networks.

Many children have now returned to school and people are able to meet friends and family outside of their homes. However, we are all living with the uncertainty of how long this will last because of the possibility of stricter social-distancing measures being imposed in the future.

It’s so important that parents know that, whatever the situation, support is out there and there is somewhere to turn when they need extra help. That is why earlier this year, NSPCC Scotland teamed up with the Edinburgh Child Protection Committee to launch the All of Us campaign to let families know where and how they can get advice and support.

One of the organisations involved in the campaign is Stepping Stones North Edinburgh – a charity that supports young parent families.

A 20-year-old mum, who receives support from this charity, said:

“It’s good to be able to talk to others and know that we’re all in the same boat. It makes you realise you are not alone, no-one judges you and it’s confidential. I sometimes go to a session feeling really stressed but leave feeling chilled and happy to see my son and in a better place to play with him.”

A 21-year-old mum-of-two, who is also supported by the charity, said:

“Being a parent is the hardest job in the world, no matter what age you are or your kid is, and if you’re struggling just ask for help because there’s always someone out there.” 

Here is a link to a YouTube video of two mums supported by Stepping Stones talking about the importance of reaching out for help.

At the start of the year we held a number of community events across the city and then in April we brought together information on our web page about organisations and contacts where families could turn for help during lockdown.  This included information on support offered by public services, voluntary agencies and charities to support people who need it. Some examples are food banks, financial advice, crisis loans, activities for children and support and advice on home learning.

We have also sent this information in food boxes to more than 300 families across the city and via email to parents through schools. And we have been reaching out to families needing extra help with a targeted social media campaign.

The details on our web page are regularly updated so people know what support services are available under current circumstances.

The different organisations involved in the campaign have also been working together to gain insight into how they can best support families and protect children across Edinburgh, in online workshops. We are now planning on creating a webinar about neglect – the signs, impact and what to do –  tailored for adults working with children and families in Edinburgh. 

And, next month, we will be putting on a Virtual Fun Day with organisations across Edinburgh for families, who will be able to sign up to the different activities for free.

To find out more about the campaign and about available support visit

For parenting advice and support visit NSPCC helpline or call 0808 800 5000, weekdays 8am to 10pm and weekends 9am to 6pm. People can also contact Social Care Direct on 0131 200 2324.