Luke Swann, founder of The Prologue free personalised books scheme which aims to engage even the most reluctant readers, explains how the books work and why he feels the landscape of literacy learning needs to change in order to include children from all backgrounds…
When did The Prologue begin, and why did you set it up?
Just over a year ago, I set up The Prologue as a way to create the educational and social change I think is urgently needed. I grew up in an impoverished area where education simply didn’t work for a lot of young people. I’ve work as a teacher and a children’s author before but I had to solve some of these issues on a wider scale and so The Prologue has become my primary means to achieve that necessary change.
Do you run classroom sessions alongside the books?
We’re fortunate enough to conduct writing workshops in classrooms, some of which centre around our next story, ‘The Secret Book of I’. The narrative concerns a child who believes in the existence of a Book that tells the story of their entire life, which they go on a journey to find, hoping to discover their destiny, and so we do creative work around children’s aspirations and focus on them being taken seriously as writers, artists, cooks, builders or whatever they may want to be.
How can teachers plan lessons/projects around the books?
The story comes with an educational guide on ‘The Personalised Story Method’, which enables teachers to utilise the book without too much planning as we understand the huge workload they often have. The guide is therefore created with this in mind but there’s also plenty of opportunity with this approach for teachers to express their creativity.
Does The Prologue work in SEND schools or for SEND pupils in mainstream schools?
The Prologue is offering its personalised story and related resources to both SEND schools as well as mainstream schools. Teachers working with SEND pupils have said that, based on their experiences, pupils have engaged more when educational material has been personalised specifically to them and so a story where they feature as the hero might give them a more positive perspective of themselves.
How do you engage reluctant readers in the books?
A major finding in social learning theory is that people learn more from models they perceive as being more similar to themselves. In order to learn this way, a child must attend to that model and personalised stories add a layer of authenticity, playfulness, immediacy and relevance that can grab a potential reader’s attention.
Are you getting a good response from schools, as the resource is free?
Given the current economic climate, schools require some free resources and support but it’s also important that those resources are of a high enough quality. We’ve found that along with our altruistic nature, schools have been receptive because the approach and story are innovative and of a very high calibre.
Do you think more funding should be awarded to schools, and companies like yours, to improve literacy levels?
It’s great that the Department for Education recently said that education was a “special case” for extra government spending, although the lack of reform they proposed to partly achieve this is very concerning. Of all the vital areas within education, literacy is at or near the top in terms of so many important life outcomes and so it does require more funding. However, I think that schools and organisations such as my own need to justify their spending and so innovation and research must combine, which is something The Prologue looks to consistently do.
What plans do you have for the future of The Prologue, and for yourself?
Our vision is of creating the largest World Education System and enabling the first global movement of children so that their needs and ideas are better heard, their stories more widely published, their other pieces of work celebrated and their acts make a greater contribution to society. By making quality education accessible and more purposeful for every child and young person, they can better empower themselves and develop their universal thinking.