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Literature… or should that be reading?

At the end of last week I met up with Christina at the lovely Selby Abbey to discuss an exciting event happening at the end of this month, Selby district’s first Children’s Reading Festival. The event has been organised following some research that Christina did last year. Out of 350 literature festivals in the UK less than 10% have children’s events during their programme. However why have a reading festival, not a literature festival, and why Selby?

On a personal note the word literature still makes me think of my worst GCSE result, English literature, and how the whole subject left me somewhat perplexed for a few years. Whilst in relative terms the grade I got, a B, was far from poor, I could never work out why someone who loved reading and writing, and had received a better grade in English language, was so poor at a subject which to the logic of a sixteen year old should suit me perfectly. All I knew was that I was, according to the teacher, ‘unable to draw the correct conclusions’ from the books and poems that we read. Not being a particularly rebellious teen I just accepted this analysis, but did test it out further in my first year at university and found I was similarly ungifted in the study of French literature! Fortunately neither of these two experiences dampened my enthusiasm for books and I feel privileged almost two decades later to be working in such a creative industry, where inspiration is everywhere.

My own story above goes some way to explaining Christina’s reasons for choosing the word ‘reading’ in the festival’s title. The word ‘literature’ has a connotation of highbrow knowledge and in some cases can even conjure up an idea of elitism. The definition of the word literature does nothing to dispel this sense of superiority, the Oxford English Dictionary defining it as:

‘written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit.’

As a definition this is hardly something that leads us to immediately think of children’s books. However delve a little deeper into the word and we find that the sense of its origin is ‘knowledge of books’. I can’t help thinking that my four year old daughter’s ‘knowledge’ of certain children’s books is far greater than mine, but when it comes to her describing what she likes at school, she will simply say ‘I like reading’ and I totally agree with her, so do I.

The idea of a reading festival is therefore born out of the wish to create something that is accessible to all. Its location is partly born out of it being near to home for Christina, but moreover a great desire to give children from all backgrounds and abilities an equal opportunity to attend a book-centred event. Whilst Selby did not feature in the top 400 most vulnerable constituencies with regard to literacy in a recent survey by the Literacy Trust ( , like many communities across northern England it has suffered due to the decline in heavy industries such as coal mining. The Selby coalfield with its six pits built only 40 years ago is no longer visible on the local landscape and shipbuilding in the town ceased in the late 1990s. We really hope that the festival will be a success and can help with the development of festivals in similar areas across the country, each one hopefully contributing to raising literacy levels and aspirations in that area.

We will be reporting back on the festival in future blogs, but until then enjoy literature… or should that be reading?!

Rebecca Thomas, Editor


It’s awards season don’t you know!

Okay, so the Oscars and the BAFTAs may have come and gone, but here at Poems and Pictures we have had a few reasons to get excited and celebrate in the last week. Yesterday, on the eve of International Women’s Day, Christina attended the Northern Power Women Awards 2017 where she was nominated in the Person with a Purpose category. Whilst Christina didn’t come away with an award, she was delighted to have been shortlisted along with many other fantastic female role models, showing what can be achieved with determination and passion. Here on International Women’s Day, when so much work is still required to bring opportunities to girls and women the world over to create more equality, it seems particularly appropriate to celebrate the success of female role models here at home.

Last night’s awards ceremony has not been our only reason to get excited here this week though. You may recall that two weeks ago we asked you to get voting for Triangular Trev in the People’s Book Prize. Well we are now delighted to announce that Trev and the Shape Idols have made it through to the final! We now eagerly await the awards ceremony in May and will be sure to update you on how Triangular Trev gets on.

Our interest in the People’s Book Prize does not end with Triangular Trev though. Last autumn we worked on two mental and emotional wellbeing resources for primary schools with the lovely Stuart and Amanda at Aqua Holistics. These were published just before Christmas and we are really pleased that they have been shortlisted in the spring collection for the People’s Book Prize non-fiction. Please have a look and get voting once again to give them every opportunity of making the final.

By now you have probably had enough of our awards excitement, so we thought we would give you a quick update on what else is happening here at Poems and Pictures. Today Christina was out and about supporting the Hull Children’s University. She and Felicity Fly illustrator Julie Omond held a storytelling, song and illustrating workshop for over 400 children at the Wilberforce Theatre, and Christina also gifted 400 books at the event. The Children’s University is a charity which aims to raise aspirations amongst young people in Hull with unique learning experiences. Hull is the UK city of culture for 2017 and it is important to seize the opportunity to inspire children across the city. Less than fifteen years ago Hull was named as the worst place to live in the UK. However the city has most definitely invested in its retail quarter and many industrial projects over the last decade. This year sees many projects and events to celebrate being the city of culture with a view to building a legacy for the city. Hull will this year host the Turner Prize, the prestigious annual art prize. One of Hull’s most famous son’s is its MP from 1780-1784 William Wiberforce who campaigned for the abolition of slavery. He was an independent MP always voting with his conscience.

I searched for a quote from one of Hull’s more recent well known residents, the poet Philip Larkin, to end this blog, but his melancholy defeated me. Instead I think we can all take inspiration from Wilberforce and indeed the work of the Children’s University to raise children’s aspirations through hard work, determination and of course a love of books.

Rebecca Thomas, Editor


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Books, books, books!

As I sit and write this on the eve of the official World Book Day, I feel like I am somewhat lagging behind Christina in celebrating this event, as she has already been to two London schools this week and is visiting another one tomorrow. She has been to Betty Layward Primary School in Stoke Newington, St Anthony’s Catholic Primary School in Forest Gate and she is looking forward to visiting the Wetherby School in central London tomorrow. In addition to celebrating all things stories in the form of the Felicity Fly books and Triangular Trev, Christina has run poetry workshops and talked about being an author. By the end of the week she will have celebrated with over a thousand pupils and staff, which is quite a party!

I know like me many parents will have spent the last week or so trying to arrange costumes, or being creative or crafty on a book theme as schools across the country prepare to celebrate. My daughter’s school are focussing this year on the 30th anniversary of Where’s Wally?. Cue our local supermarket now being sold out of Wally costumes and frantic Facebook forum conversations about where else to find a costume at the eleventh hour! Whilst the costumes and crafts are fun, the greatest fun comes from the books themselves.

Our celebration of World Book Day stems from UNESCO’s World Book and Copyright Day held around the world on 23 April, the date being chosen as it is the date of birth or death of several significant authors including Shakespeare. Whilst the charity The Reading Agency organises World Book Night on 23 April, which is largely aimed at adults, World Book Day in the UK was moved to March to avoid the clash with St George’s Day and school Easter holidays.

Anyway history lesson over, World Book Day celebrates its 20th birthday this year. There are ten different books for which a child can redeem their £1 book token, which cover ages pre-school up to fourteen. However don’t forget that the token can also be exchanged for £1.00 off any book from participating booksellers, so you could choose to meet Pablo Pineapple from Caracas in Felicity Fly Meets the Dragon Fruit or find out what instrument Equilateral Eric plays in Triangular Trev and the Shape Idols. Whatever book a child chooses they should be encouraged to enjoy owning and reading that book. Some of our earliest memories of stories stick with us not just through our childhood, but well into our adult life. Whilst I may not read Paddington as often as I did as a child, I still love getting stuck into a good book. Children these days spend an increasing amount of time in front of a screen whether that be at home or at school, and spending time away from the screen with a book should be a pleasure. Getting lost down the rabbit hole with Alice, avoiding being eaten by the Gruffalo, exploring the Hundred Acre Wood or plotting with Matilda against the frightful Miss Trunchbull, the characters and their exploits live in the memory, and inspire us. Reading and the enjoyment of books really is a skill for life.

So whatever you are doing to celebrate World Book Day, at home, at nursery, at your local library, at school or indeed if you are lucky enough to be meeting a fantastic author like Christina, enjoy the day, and help your child to cherish their book. Enjoy the gift of reading!

Rebecca Thomas, Editor



The importance of reading aloud

Before we get to reading aloud, welcome to the first Poems and Pictures blog! Life at Poems and Pictures is very hectic at the moment, which means there are so many exciting things coming up, including book signings, school visits and reading festivals to name but a few.

Last week Christina visited The Olive Tree Primary School in Bolton to celebrate World Read Aloud Day 2017. The Olive Tree Primary School is proud to be Bolton’s first free school, and has the great slogan ‘Inspiring to Achieve’. Christina read two of her books aloud to a packed assembly hall containing over 400 pupils and staff before leading poetry workshops for pupils in key stage two. The children really were inspired to achieve and many have entered the national eight line rhyme initiative with this year’s theme of seasons and climate change. As one of the judges I can’t wait to read the entries. (More information on the initiative can be found on the website.)

Reading aloud to children is so important, as research has repeatedly shown, and the benefits are numerous. It introduces new vocabulary and helps children to improve their own literacy skills. Children who are read to are more likely to enjoy reading for fun and want to learn more about the world around them. Children learn how books are structured and are able to use this information when being creative and imaginative as they grow and learn. Talking about books helps develop both reading and writing skills. As a parent myself I love reading to my daughter at bedtime. We enjoy discussing the books and storylines, sometimes creating our own alternative endings. After all, who doesn’t enjoy putting on different accents for different characters whilst building an important bond with their child?

Talking of accents, this weekend at WHSmith, Meadowhall from 11:00 until 16:00, Christina is signing copies of her latest book Triangular Trev and the Shape Idols, which as always comes with a narrated audio CD also containing the Shape Idols song. Christina brings the characters to life with her great voiceover work. This rhyming book introduces mathematical shapes and terms in a fun way. The rhyming element makes it a fantastic read aloud book and gives plenty of things to discuss from Nonagon Norma’s funky hair to the definition of the word ‘isosceles’. The book is being showcased in the People’s Book Prize and voting ends on 28 February, so if you haven’t voted yet, what are you waiting for?!

That’s all for this week, but check back next week for lots of World Book Day news. In the meantime enjoy reading aloud and don’t forget to vote for Triangular Trev!

Rebecca Thomas, Editor



Selby Times - 5th May 2016

I had a wonderful time staging storytelling sessions and poetry workshops at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in the United Arab Emirates. There are some amazing poetry writers and illustrators who have entered into our initiative. The closing date is 5th May.

World Book Day:   I have visited many schools connected with World Book Day, here are some of the highlights:




11, 12 & 13th March
I had a wonderful time with storytelling sessions celebrating British Brands with Best of Britannia at the Old Historic Post Office in Preston, Lancashire. I met the fabulous team from University of Lancashire and will be working with them promoting healthy food with Felicity Fly Meets the Dragon Fruit at their Science Festival on 2nd July. We will also be exhibiting some of the children’s work from our national initiative, An Invitation Capturing Children’s Imagination.  All our products are produced and printed in the UK.

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Emma Hutchinson Poetry Book Presentation

Emma is one of forty children with her poem published in the Children's Poetry Volume 3. Now available on Amazon, Blackwell's and Waterstones online.

BBC Radio Humberside interview with Christina Gabbitas - Children's Author.

Here's the interview from July with Radio Humberside.

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BBC Radio Lancashire - John Gilmore interviews Christina Gabbitas.

Christina Gabbitas talks to John Gilmore at BBC Radio Lancashire about the history behind the Felicity Fly series of books and the children's poetry competition, now in it's third year.

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An Invitation That Captured The Primary School Nation - TPBP Dame Beryl Bainbridge First Time Author Award 2015

I began a writing initiative in 2013 to encourage children of all abilities to 'have a go' at writing.

The children are invited to write an eight line rhyme on topics chosen each year. For 2014 this was creatures and food. We had entries from all over the UK.

Wonderful news! I picked up the Dame Beryl Bainbridge Award for Children's Poetry Volume 2, as a result of the national initiative 

After researching children's books that were available for young children addressing child sexual abuse, I decided to pen a rhyming story.

Share Some Secrets, teaches children about the difference between good and troublesome secrets.

This publication, is suitable for a child to pick up and read without parental supervision. More details can be found on 

Share Some Secrets is now in the NSPCC Library.

Share Some Secrets Book listing on the NSPCC Website


Guest author at The British Library with Dr Stephen Fear, Ambassador and Entrepreneur in Residence, World Book Day.

I was invited to talk about the importance of encouraging children to use their imagination, as words are nothing without this!

Here is a link to the interview with Dr Stephen Fear, Entrepreneur and Ambassador in Residence at The British Library.

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I will be encouraging reading in WHSmith Trafford Centre, Manchester from 10.30 am Saturday 28th February. I will be signing books and have information on the national initiative, An Invitation To Capture The Primary School Nation. Take a peek at the initiative page via this website.

I will also be chatting to John Gillmore on BBC Radio Lancashire, Friday 27th at 1.00pm, about being guest author at the British Library with Dr Stephen Fear on World Book Day, my visit to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, encouraging reading, and all things being an author, with the Felicity Fly series and other publications. 

Share Some Secrets has been featured on the NSPCC Website

Share Some Secrets Book listing on the NSPCC Website


An Invitation to Capture Imagination with Words and Illustration

Entry has now closed for this year's competition, next years competition will be announced later in the year.

Children (aged 7-11) are invited to write an eight line rhyme on the topics of Music and Artists, this can be anything from a musical instrument, to a painter or pop artist.

The initiative runs from 11th Jan until 5th May. The children also have an opportunity to illustrate too.

The words must be the children’s own work and handwritten.

A small selection of poems will be published in a national poetry book and exhibited at venues around the UK.


Children's Poems Vol. 4

This poetry book is a result of a national initiative to help encourage and inspire children of primary school age to read and write.
 Buy on Amazon

Events & Signings



24-30 April - United Arab Emirates, Sharjah Children's Reading Festival - Workshops

23 April - London Marathon for NSPCC ChildLine

20th April - Leeds School - Poetry Workshops

28th March - Sheffield School - Storytelling & Poetry Workshops

23rd- 25th March - Selby District Children's Reading Festival 

8th March - Theatre event 400 Children - Children's University for Hull City Culture

7th March  - Northern Power Women Awards - Manchester Shotlisted 'Person with a Purpose'

2nd March - Wetherby School London 

1st March -  Storytelling St Antonys Catholic Primary School London

28th February - Betty Layward School London 

25th February - WHSmith Sheffied Meadowhall - Booksigning

16th February - World Read Aloud Day - The Olive Tree School, Bolton, Lancashire 

11th & 12th January - Poetry Workshops with Children's University  - Hull City of Culture

9th January - Poetry Initiative Launch -


3rd December - Selby WHSmith, Book signing

26th November - Doncaster WHSmith, Book signing

19th November - Beverley WHSmith, Book signing

30th October - Sheffield 10k for ChildLine NSPCC

29th October - WHSmith Halifax, Book signing

28th October - Waterstones Wakefield

27th October Waterstones York, Storytelling and Book signing Triangular Trev and the Shape Idols

26th October Selby Library, Storytelling & Book signing

25th October - Sherburn Library, Storytelling & Book signing

22nd October - WHSmith Sheffield Meadowhall - Book Launch. Triangular Trev and the Shape idols

6th October - World Poetry Day  - Fairburn School

21st September - Soroptomists Visit

26 August - Children's University

19th August - Storytelling & Book signing North Leeds Food Festival, Roundhay Park

1st August - Sheffield Hallam

14th July - Sheffield Hallam

12th July - Peoples Book Prize with

6th July - School Visit Worcester & BBC Hereford & Worcester

3rd July - Exhibition of Children's Poetry, Samlesbury Hall, Lancashire

2nd July - Guest of University College Lancashire - Science Festival

30 June - BBC Lancashire with John Gillmore

27 June - School Visit, Cleckheaton

28th May - Pop-up Shop, St Georges Centre, Preston, Lancashire - Storytelling & Poetry University College Lancashire

20th May - Yorkshire Women of Achievement Awards