Spotlight on: Chestnuts Primary School

Monthly posts focusing in on Patron of Reading activity in different Haringey schools.

Tanya was disguised as a skeleton the first day I rocked up as PoR of Chestnuts

Our July/ August spotlight post is jointly authored by Chestnuts’ Librarian Tanya and Patron (or pet author) Karen McCombie…

How We Met – Karen McCombie (author) and Tanya Efthymiou (librarian)

Karen’s story…

I didn’t understand what a Patron of Reading was (doh!).

I’d seen it mentioned in passing on Twitter, and always meant to check it out, but forgot (double doh!). Then the Big Green Bookshop got in touch, inviting me to the launch of the Patron of Reading Haringey Chapter. I pootled along, and found out more about the initiative, as well as meeting a bunch of (local) fellow authors, school librarians and teachers.

Tanya’s story

I knew a little about the Patron of Reading initiative, mostly from our network of Haringey school librarians. I loved the idea of a regular link between our school children and a visiting author, especially if we could find a local one, who understood the demographics of the area. I ran my thoughts past our headteacher and was delighted to get a ‘go for it’ response. So off to the launch I went…..

It was a bit like speed-dating.

But even as I was chatting to other people, Tanya and I kept glancing at each other across the crowded room… We’d already met in Twitter-land, so we weren’t total strangers. As soon as we managed to hook up, that was it. She gazed into my eyes and uttered the words every author wants to hear; “Would you consider being Chestnuts’ Patron of Reading?”

“Yes,” I replied, my heart fluttering…

I thoroughly enjoyed the launch – the ideas from our peers about how PoRs and schools can work together. I also enjoyed the networking,   but realised at once that Karen and I would get on brilliantly and she’d be a great match for our school of keen, vibrant kids

Tanya was disguised as a skeleton the first day I rocked up as PoR of Chestnuts.

Well, it WAS dress-as-a-book-character day during the school’s Book Week, and she made a great Funnybones. Over the year, I’ve visited the school for a half-day every half-term, talking books, launching reading schemes, having juice-and-biscuit book chats with kids, as well as turning up in my pyjamas for our Read-In-Bed World Book Day theme.

Apart from Karen not awarding me best dress-up prize, we’ve got on brilliantly! She’s been a source of so many ideas, a sounding board for my plans and a much-loved individual around our school. (Little ones run up to her for hugs whenever she’s in!) I see the children’s pleasure when she comes to award prizes, read preview excerpts, learn about writing techniques or just when they look at her poster in the library and chose another of her books or recommendations.   She has made my role of encouraging kids to read for pleasure so much easier.

Whoop! Whoop!

I’m staying on as PoR at Chestnuts for another year, and look forward very much to working with Tanya and her great students once again. Tanya and I will be putting our heads together very soon to dream up new reading-related fun and nonsense for the new school year. Bring on the book-ness!


We’re VERY lucky at Chestnuts that Karen has agreed to hop on the bus our way 6 times a year two years running. In reality, it’s been more as she’s kindly come along to meet families at Parents Evening books sales and did a stint in our story-telling barn at our summer fete. We still have so many ideas up our sleeves, including role-play activities based on her books, and a joint session with one of her illustrators, who she helped me get into the school last year. I’m really looking forward to Year 2.