It was an enormous privilege to watch the Glow Meet between Julia Donaldson and the 6 primary schools involved in the literacy project referred to here.

Julia sat in a class and read to and answered questions from children across the country. She was a consummate professional, speaking to the children with respect and a deep understanding of their needs. One question was about her favourite t.v. character. She neatly made it relevant by asking for suggestions from the children. She chose Tom and Jerry.

There was tremendous excitement at Longniddry when she remarked that her father had lived in the farm just outside the village. Somehow knowing that she knew where we were made the experience all the richer.

Each child in the Glow Group voted for her or his favourite book by Julia. When ‘Stick Man’ won, a great cheer went up from the class I was in. The children had created campaigning posters which were displayed around the room.

Julia read ‘Stick Man’, encouraging the children to join in when she was reading, before getting the puppets to wave to the children who were then asked to name the Stick family. She suggested that the children themselves write a story, stressing that a good tale has a beginning, a muddle (in Larkin’s words) and an end. Individuals from around the country volunteered ideas for what the problem might be. My favourite was a snake that loses its pattern; though a knot in the tail would make a good yarn too, no doubt. The children agreed enthusiastically to write stories the following day and send them to Julia.

The 30-minute session was a wonderful example of excellent interactive teaching directly related to the experiences that the children were having in the classroom to develop their literacy skills. Of course this could have happened without Glow. However, the bringing together of 6 disparate groups of 5 and 6 year olds to share such an experience gave it an added dimension. I’m not sure that the children themselves have struck up meaningful relationships with those in the other classes, although it is clear that their teachers have. But if there is another opportunity to interact in this way, the P1s and 2s will approach it with equanimity. They may, as a result of this Glow project, have a better idea that communication adds to a sense of enjoyment and that sharing provides good ideas for future learning.

Significantly, we teachers are more impressed with the technology than the little ones: it is, after all, an intrinsic part of their environment rather than an exciting innovation as it is even for the youngest teachers amongst us.

One more note: There was an anguished message on the whiteboard half way through the proceedings. Pencaitland School had a fire alarm and had to abandon ship. Pancakes were to blame, but the whole school population had to stand outside while the fire engines came and people were counted. Intensely frustrating for the children and staff who so looked forward to Julia Donaldson’s input, but reflective of the sometimes less than ideal world with which we have to cope.