Ollie Discovers: reading can be fun!

Anya Acres travels the UK providing interactive school visits promoting her children’s book series Ollie Discovers

After being made redundant last year, former teacher Anya Acres put her skills to good use and published her first ever children’s book Ollie Discovers the Planets in January 2018. Since the release, the book series Ollie Discovers has been a huge success and she has visited schools all over Staffordshire, Cheshire and Derbyshire as well as virtual-chats with schools across the globe.

Her latest addition to the series, Ollie Discovers the Dinosaurs, which explores the London Natural History Museum, is set in rhyme and encourages young readers to have fun whilst learning. Both books can be purchased online and in book stores.

We asked Anya some questions on how important and insightful these author visits are to schools:

Tell us about your school visits and the schools that have participated

I have visited 23 educational settings from private nurseries, state nurseries, independent schools and state schools up to Year 6. These have been throughout Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Cheshire. For local establishments, I happily provide a half hour story session for free (plus travel expenses). Numerous schools now pay me to provide creative writing sessions, topic sessions related to space or dinosaurs or school enrichment days. As word of mouth spread, other schools further-a-field contacted me, which was amazing! With being a mum, and having other work commitments, it wasn’t possible for me to travel any further, so I came up with the idea of author Skype chats. I have skyped schools all over the UK, including The British International School, Belgrade!

Anya captivated the children’s attention, her interactive and interesting visual prompts and her use of Ollie the alien left the children eager to start writing. Anya proved a huge success with staff and children sparking new enthusiasm for writing – British Independent School, Belgrade

What activities tend to take place during school visits?

The activities vary from place to place and depends on what the school/nursery would like me to do. All my sessions are very interactive. I always bring my full set of inflatable planets, a tambourine, books that I wrote as a child, my favourite childhood books, a USB stick, an author story-sack and a cuddly toy ‘Ollie’. Now that I also have my new book, Ollie Discovers the Dinosaurs, I plan to bring my five hand-knitted dinosaurs (made by a friend) from the story. I also plan to bring five plastic matching dinosaur skeletons, in order to match and discuss. Many years ago I learnt Makaton sign language, so I like to incorporate some of the basic actions, for example, colours. I have also ensured that all the text is on coloured backgrounds, so that my stories are accessible and inclusive.

When schools have booked me for a day or half a day, I provide them with thorough and differentiated lesson plans. I have led all sorts of activities, but my favourites are making aliens out of fruit, then naming and describing them, I also loved writing poems with Year 5 and 6.

Coming back closer to home, Ball Green Primary School in Stoke were incredibly pleased with Anya’s visit: “Meeting an author, hearing of her early love of books and writing her own little stories as a child, which have been lovingly saved in a scrapbook, to the very important promotion of lifelong aspirations where children were encouraged to realise that they can be whatever they want to be in life, from authors to astronauts.

“The children were fascinated by the interactive story telling session where they created the solar system and added sound effects to bring to life this factual fiction story about a little orange alien called Ollie on his exploration of the planets, with his ultimate mission of visiting the sun, that sparkled, shimmered and shone!”

For more information on how to book Anya Acres for your school, visit: www.olliediscovers.co.uk.

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