Jayne is the author of many non-fiction books for children and resources for teachers, especially those accompanying BBC history television programmes for schools. She has also written three novels for 8-11 year olds about Rocky, a rescue greyhound, and the family who adopt him. She used to be a primary school teacher and then went on to train teachers, before becoming a full-time author.Jayne was born in Brierley Hill, West Midlands, and now lives in Salisbury, with her daughter. She teaches creative writing to adults and often visits schools to talk about her favourite subject – writing books.
Q&A with Jayne Woodhouse
What inspired you to write for reluctant readers?
I love reading, but I know from being a teacher that there are some children who find it really hard. I want to help find a way for everyone to enjoy books and discover for themselves some of the pleasure that reading has given me all my life.
What challenges do struggling readers face when they open a book?
Nobody likes doing something they are struggling with and reading is no exception. Imagine having a book and feeling that, even before you open it, you're going to find it difficult. Then when you turn to the first page, there may be so many words in front of you, they make you want to give up straight away. And when you do discover a book you can read easily, it doesn't grab your interest because it was written for much younger children.
What features and methods do you use to ensure that your books have that High Interest appeal that really engages young readers?
I try to pick subjects that will appeal to young readers and encourage them to want to find out more. I make sure I vary the way I present the information, so that the pages are different and (hopefully!) not boring. I use lots of pictures to keep the interest level high. Finally, I try not to talk down to children, so they feel the books are right for them.
What difference do books like these make to children who are in need of literacy support?
Non-fiction for reluctant readers gives them the confidence to find out information for themselves and the feeling of success that comes with finishing a book. All the skills they need to practise are there, such as using the contents page and index, so hopefully they may feel encouraged to move on to something more challenging in the future.
Can you give us any teasers of what to expect in your upcoming WOW! Facts title?
It's all about getting around on two wheels! There are strange bikes from the past and amazing inventions which we may be riding in the future; plus famous cyclists and scary tricks and stunts.
What controls do you place on the vocabulary you use and how important is this?
I try to be very clear and concise about what I want to say, so I never use three words where one will do. I work hard to make every word count and earn its place on the page. I make sure I use a lot of high frequency words, but I also include more challenging or specialist words. When the pictures are carefully chosen to accompany the text, children can usually work out what these say.
What is your favourite children's book?
When I was young, I loved Hans Andersen's Fairy Tales. I still have the copy I used to read under the bed clothes with a torch, after my mum had told me to turn the light off.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers/authors?
Keep your eyes and ears open all the time: look around you and listen wherever you go. Sometimes stories only need a tiny spark to set them alight – make sure you're always on the lookout for those magical moments.
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