It has been three years since Rebecca Mileham and our pupils created the Books for Breakfast club at Dashwood Banbury Academy. With all of their passion, enthusiasm and dedication, the club went from strength to strength over this time. A group set up for the enjoyment of literature, where pupils could discuss, explore and delve into books predominantly through fun activities. Because of the passion and enthusiasm of our pupils, Books for Breakfast continues; with an excited and enthusiastic new group of Year 6 pupils.
Thank you to all of our Books for Breakfast pupils and Mrs Chew for a fabulous (and slightly adventurous!) day in London. Despite the rather testing public transport issues, we had a fantastic experience in Parliament learning about The House of Commons, House of Lords and the Monarchy. All of the children asked fantastic questions to develop their understanding of British Law and how Bills are passed to become Laws.
All pupils were superb ambassadors for Dashwood Banbury Academy with their resilience (when the trains were delayed!), their impeccable manners and their respect in what is a truly awe-inspiring historical building – Parliament. Thank you all for doing us proud – you were a pleasure to spend the day with.
It has been two years since Rebecca Mileham and our pupils created the Books for Breakfast club at Dashwood Banbury Academy. With all of their passion, enthusiasm and dedication, the club went from strength to strength over this time. A group set up for the enjoyment of literature, where pupils could discuss, explore and delve into books predominantly through fun activities. Sadly, Rebecca’s time with the club ended in July 2016 and the summer holidays came and went. At the start of this new academic year, Mujtaba, a former member of Books for Breakfast asked when the club would be starting again and who would be taking it over? It is because of the passion and enthusiasm of our pupils that Books for Breakfast continues; with some former members and some new recruits.
Our first session opened with a walk into Banbury Town to explore Waterstones. We enjoyed looking at the vast array of books, reading blurbs and sharing the books that interested us; creating a wish list of reads. We came away with copies of Christophe’s Story by Nicki Cornwell; a book that we feel is going to open up some very interesting discussion in our future sessions.
In the story, an 8 year old child from Rwanda describes how he and his mother and his brother have to run for their lives after the “soldiers” have taken his father away. Why? Christophe’s father, Andre, does not agree with the policies of the ruling regime; and therefore his life (and the lives of members of his family) is in danger.
At one level, this story lends itself to discussion about human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, and the reasons for which people become refugees. But there is another, more sinister thread to this story that lies in the specific history of Rwanda’s colonial past. So there is another whole area of discussion to enter into, about global relationships, economic and political history, and the making of history itself.
We’ve reached the final meeting of the term – so how to finish off another year in Book for Breakfast? In our previous meeting we looked at the different kinds of poetry in Alice in Wonderland, including a verse that appears in the shape of a mouse’s tale, a nonsense poem and a parody of a well-known verse of the time.
A parody is a humorous imitation of a song or poem, and the group could think of various examples of current artists who make very popular parodies, including TryHardNinja and his Minecraft parody of Revenge.
In fact, many of the poems in Alice are parodies. Most are based on verses we no longer know well, but one was certainly familiar:
Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you’re at
Up above the world so high, like a tea tray in the sky
We read out You are old, Father William, which is one such parody, and tried to work out what made it funny. We found comical ideas such as the old man standing on his head incessantly, or turning a somersault in at the door. There was also perfect rhythm and meter, some alliteration (the goose with the bones and the beak), and the fact that in the end the father threatens to kick the son down the stairs.
For our final meeting then, what would be a good activity? Why, a debate of course! Firstly, Rebecca read out the court scene from the end of Alice, in which the knave of hearts is on trial, and Alice is called as a witness. It ends with all the cards flying up into the air, and Alice waking up on the river bank.
Meanwhile, the group were thinking of potential debate topics, arriving at four which we voted on using the patent ‘Cadbury’s method’ in which you place a mini-roll (or in this case a chocolate finger) onto your preferred choice. The potential motions were:
- footballers are paid too much
- there should be no school on Fridays
- advertisements are harmful
- wrestling is too violent
The group quickly divided into the proposition team, the opposition team, the chair, the timekeeper and the court photographer.
Both teams had good arguments, including that you would have more time with your family and would be better rested (for the proposition) and that it would be expensive for parents who had to work, and that you would miss Friday fish and chips for school lunch (for the opposition).
As usual we had a very structured debate and it was great that everyone knew the format and how to raise a point of information.
The meeting came to a close before we had time for a final decision on who had won – so it will have to be declared a draw. Will you all still come to school on a Friday? I hope so.
It has been enormous fun being part of Book for Breakfast and I (Rebecca) am stepping down now because I’m taking on a new role at our secondary school, Banbury Academy. I hope to stay in touch with you all as you continue your brilliant school careers!
“I have always wanted to go and see the sights in Oxford that inspired Lewis Carroll when he wrote Alice in Wonderland. So when my expert friend Catherine said she would take me on a tour, of course I cried Calloo, Callay, as it was clearly a frabjous day.
We began by going in to Worcester College, one of the colleges that Carroll would have visited while he was living and working in Oxford.
It has beautiful gardens and some people think that one of the passageways may have inspired him to write about Alice longing to be able to squeeze down the corridor to see the ‘loveliest garden you ever saw’. Do you think this could be the right one?
Catherine also showed me the lake in Worcester’s gardens, which is surrounded by birds and seems just like the pool of tears that Alice cries when she is nine feet tall – and which she swims in when she is small.
In the picture you can see me reading from the book while a swan listens, and hopefully enjoys itself. There were also ducks and a moorhen – although no dodo, eaglet or lory as in the story. We did see a dodo carving in the chapel.
In mythology, a gryphon is a creature with the head, talons, and wings of an eagle and the body of a lion. Our Annotated Alice book is sure that both Lewis Carroll and Alice, along with her sisters, would have seen it on the Trinity College gates.
Our next stop was Christ Church itself where Lewis Carroll was an academic, and Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean. You can go inside, and see further clues such as decorations around the fireplace that resemble Alice’s stretched-out neck illustration when she is first growing bigger.
However, for today, we ventured around to the other side, where you can peep into a garden and see the house where Alice would have lived, next to the Cathedral.
The white window in the middle of the picture, between the foliage, shows the house where the Liddells lived. One of the trees here is credited with giving Carroll the idea to have a Cheshire Cat on a branch.
There are other sights to see, but they will have to wait for another trip to Oxford – and closer study of the book The Annotated Alice.
It was especially lovely, however, to see members of Book for Breakfast involved in the end of year play in their costumes.”
- Rebecca Mileham
‘No room! No room!’ cries the party, but Alice could see perfectly well that there was plenty of room, and joined them.
Much of the conversation turned out to be nonsense. However, by consulting the book The Annotated Alice, edited by Martin Gardner, we did find out that there were explanations behind many of the eccentric things mentioned – characters, situations or places that might have inspired Lewis Carrol.
The first of these was the Mad Hatter himself. You might know already that hat-makers in this period were often badly affected by the mercury they used in their work, sometimes behaving oddly. But the book revealed that there was an unusual gentleman called Theophilus Carter, known as the Mad Hatter, who lived in Oxford in this period. He always wore a top hat, and came up with inventions such as the alarm clock bed that would tip the sleeper out automatically at a set time.
There was also the mention of an incident at Lewis Carroll’s own rooms, where he stayed in Christ Church college, Oxford, that might explain the song Alice sings: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little bat, how I wonder what you’re at.
The story went that Carroll kept toys and games there to amuse children visitors, one of which was a flying toy bat. On a hot day, it flew out of the window and made someone drop a tea-tray.
Finally, there was the question of the treacle well. The girls who live in the well, according to the story, are Elsie, Lacie and Tillie. These are a play on the names of Alice and her sisters. L C is Alice’s older sister Lorina Charlotte. Lacie is an anagram of Alice. And Tillie is short for Matilda, Alice’s younger sister’s nickname.
But the treacle well? It’s a real spring, famed in Victorian times for its supposedly health-giving waters. You can see it today in the village of Binsey, near Oxford, as well as in the picture above.
So this week we played consequences using the Alice characters. In this game, each person writes a boy’s name at the top of a sheet of paper, then folds it over. You pass on the paper, and the next person writes ‘met’ and then a girl’s name. Then it’s ‘at’, and you add in the place where they met. They then have a conversation which results in a consequence, and finally what the world had to say about it!
The whole story builds up as you pass the pieces of paper around – and then everyone reads out the results. We ended up with Mad Hatters meeting Alices and Red Queens, lots of people losing their heads along the way – and the March Hare taking over the world.
But what would be next in our exploration of Alice in Wonderland? Join us next time to find out.
Now that we’ve reached the 1960s in Dashwood’s history, it is a good time to put things in context. While changes happened at our school, what was going on in the rest of the world? We made some decade markers from 1900 to 1980 and started to fill in the details on a timeline on the wall.
But first, someone asked, why is a century called the twentieth century when all the years begin with 19? To understand this it helps to
think that in the first century, the years ran from 0-99. Then in the second century, they ran
from 100-199. In the third century, the years ran from 200-299. So the years began with a two even though it was the third century.
It’s a bit like realising that in the eleventh year of your life, for example, you go from being ten and one day, to finally being 11 – when you enter your twelfth year of life!
Starting in the decade of the 1900s, the timeline soon showed that Dashwood’s foundation stone was laid – in 1901. There were medical inspections at school, and the heating was fixed!
But all too soon the Second World War had begun, and Germany invaded Poland. Rationing came in and evacuees came to Banbury in the 1940s. Pearl Harbour was bombed by the Japanese in 1941 and America joined the war.
At school, headmistress Bessie Charles resigned and David Proctor arrived in 1943. After the war ended, and evacuees had returned home, Banbury’s population had reached 18,000. In the 1950s Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.
And what did Banbury have to look forward to in the years to come (which we haven’t yet finished reading about?) Well, for one thing, the birth of all the members of Book for Breakfast!
How did World War Two affect Banbury – at home and school? We reached the Second World War in our book about Dashwood’s history this week.
One chapter recounted the experiences of Banburian Annie Meadows, who attended Dashwood as a child and then as a teacher. She was given the task of settling the evacuees who arrived in Banbury with local families, and she took in two boys herself.
So what were the effects of the war on home life and school life? What was the evidence we could find from the book, and from our archive materials? The Book for Breakfast group members split into two teams to find out.
At home, the team pointed out that blackouts would have been frightening. Everyone had to have blackout curtains in their rooms to stop light spilling out and giving away the location of the town. Money was tight, and it must have been hard for Annie to ask families to take in the evacuees. The government only provided money for their food, and the children ended up being in Banbury for three years.
At school, the team noted that ‘overcrowding was still such a problem’, because of all the evacuee children. In fact, pupils only went to school on alternate days to ease the pressure. It was very cold during winters and ‘the water in the toilets froze’. There was ‘tape over the school windows’ in case of flying glass if a bomb fell. Children ‘had to wear gas masks on their backs’ and ‘had to practice putting on gas masks’ just in case. The school took ‘many precautions against air-raids’ but in fact ‘there was only one air raid near Dashwood, in 1940 at the gas works’.
The team found a newspaper cutting that showed the local people who attended a huge party on Dashwood’s playground at the end of the war. With many people in fancy dress, the photograph includes the grandmother of a pupil who went to Dashwood sixty years later.