Inspiring Young Readers

posted on 09 Jul 2024

Back to the Future with Year Six

I used memories of myself as a ten year old lover of comics and annuals in 1965 as a way into the rather daunting theme of ‘Rebuilding Britain after WW2’ with Year 6 at Moor Green Primary Academy in Birmingham. I also wanted the children to capture four key post-war moments with some drawing activities.

WW2 had ended ten years before my arrival into the world, so we started in 1945 with the exuberant image of celebratory street parties as described in ‘Memories of Childhood’ by Michael Foreman. We talked about the hope that ordinary people like my parents and UK politicians had about creating a better world through the creation of the Welfare State with the destruction of what were described in the Beveridge Report as ‘The Five Giants’ of Ignorance, Squalor, Want, Disease and Idleness.

They already had some knowledge about the significance of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948, so I asked them to draw a picture in response to ‘Windrush Child’ by John Agard, illustrated by Sophie Bass. The same year saw the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and so, as it was Refugee Week, I showed them Article 14 in ‘We are all born free: the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures’ by Amnesty International which resulted in picture number two.

We moved through to 1953 when they were very surprised to hear that it took that long for sweets to become easily available again - another long term impact of a world war and an inspiration for picture number three. The final picture illustrated an important 1958 milestone for children everywhere: the invention of Lego.

My birth in 1955 was only a minor blip in history and coincided with many other important world events like the brave action of Rosa Parks in US and the invention of the Polio vaccine. I wanted the children to have a glimpse of my book choices at age five in 1960 when Rupert the Bear, Noddy and Orlando the Marmalade Cat were memorable characters in my development as a lifelong reader. I then showed them a black and white photo of ten year old me on my roller skates and talked about how much I looked forward to my weekly comics of ‘Bunty’ ‘Diana’ and ‘Judy’ plus the annuals at Christmas. Comics and most other reading material was very gendered in my childhood so I left a bundle of my favourites plus a selection of ‘ Victors’, ‘ Hornets’ and some Football annuals to browse through at their leisure with teachers.

We finished with some reflection about how the world was much improved from the perspective of a ten year old in 2024, compared to mine in 1965. There are now many more books and comics that show a range of ethnic backgrounds, disabilities, positive images of women and that cover subjects about the history of different communities and the importance of social justice. I was impressed with their desire to keep up this social progress and to keep fighting those ‘Five Giants’ that we all agreed hadn’t disappeared by any means.

Please take time to look at their fantastic drawings in the gallery below. These were challenging subjects to draw, but they did a great job and so children, parents and teachers should be very proud.


Karen Argent

July 2024