Matt’s Review of 2011

12 months ago, I couldn’t imagine that 2011 could top a year that included a speech at the House of Commons and two half-marathons, one of them raising funds for the literacy volunteers at Volunteer Reading Help.

As it turned out, January 2011 marked the beginning of even more travel and adventures than I’d expected.

Matt Finch teaching students at San Domingo Savio School, Peru - April 2011

Arriving in New York to work on curriculum development for the literacy non-profit organisation Behind the Book, I met incredible arts education practitioners including Kids Comic-Con founder and comic book author Alex Simmons and the team at Uproar Art in Brooklyn.

I soon found myself covering World Read Aloud Day celebrations at Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital for the Manhattan news site DNAInfo, and interviewing the event’s founder, Pam Allyn. A brief visit to Chicago allowed me to interview Nnedi Okorafor, the acclaimed author of a series of incredible Afrocentric fantasy and sci-fi novels, one of which I reviewed for NYC arts paper The Brooklyn Rail.

There was just time to squeeze in a piece on a children’s book exhibition at Scandinavia House for Playing By the Book before I found myself heading to Peru for a 6-week stint with the team at San Domingo Savio School in Ayacucho, supporting them as they attempted to develop a bilingual instruction programme for primary-school children.

Writing for sites including Living in Peru and La Vida Idealist, I also found time to post interviews with storyteller Eric Maddern and the guru of grandparenthood Sally Wendkos Olds.

May took me from Peru to New Zealand, where I began to research the country’s growing use of comics in education, leading to a series of interviews and a discussion which appeared in the pages of New Zealand Education Gazette. I also visited the city of Christchurch in the aftermath of recent earthquakes, speaking with the Head of the Library Service Carolyn Robertson.

Paint the Town REaD's Reading Bug
Paint the Town REaD's Reading Bug

A short hop across the Tasman Strait brought me to Sydney, Australia, where I quickly developed a working relationship with Paint the Town REaD, an incredible community literacy scheme – more on them at Behind the Book’s site, here. While we prepared for Australia’s National Year of Reading in 2012, there were also interviews with New York’s young writers scheme Writopia, the exciting Doctor Who youth workshops at Australia’s National Institute of Dramatic Art, and guest writing from Australian storyteller Lee Castledine

The year built to a climax with a series of posts on the theme ‘We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are’, looking at topics as diverse as New Zealand mythology and the economics of mining – there’ll more on this theme in the new year, alongside interviews with New York’s official storyteller Diane Wolkstein, tech-education guru Josephine Dorado, Sydney’s Monkey Baa Theatre and an upcoming feature on the Finnish education system.

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