A new competition run by Middlesbrough Reads, a campaign from the National Literacy Trust and Middlesbrough Council, gives local children the opportunity to feature in a published story about lockdown.
Parmo to the Rescue, by Rachael Wong, is a story about a naughty sausage dog, Parmo, and a Middlesbrough family who are navigating a new way of life. It captures lockdown from the perspective of young people in the town and has been written with help from dozens of Middlesbrough's children.
The original story was created over the course of a week on the Middlesbrough Reads Facebook page where video instalments were uploaded and children were invited to contribute their plot ideas. The videos were watched by 6,000 people and the finished story is now available as a free download from the Middlesbrough Reads website. The download has spaces for children to add their own illustrations so they can draw along to the story and add their own personal flair.
However, this is only the beginning for Parmo to the Rescue as Rachael Wong is organising a print run for published hard copies and there's still one thing missing - artwork.
Middlesbrough Reads has today launched a competition asking children to illustrate the story. The winning artworks will then be included in the published book.
The competition is open to all local children in primary school.
To take part, photos or scanned copies of children's artwork must be sent to email@example.com by 5pm on Friday 10 July. Entries must include the child's name, age, and school. Parents should also be sure to keep their child's original drawings because Middlesbrough Reads will need to collect them from the lucky winners!
Not only will children whose illustrations are used in the published book receive a copy of Parmo to the Rescue signed by Rachael Wong, but they will become a part of Middlesbrough history.
Rachel Wong, author of Parmo to the Rescue, said: "Making this story together has been a great way to document the coronavirus pandemic from the perspective of local children, and I'm really pleased something positive has come out of this period in time.
"Parmo to the Rescue has created a platform for children to document their own experiences, and I want to involve them in every stage of this story.
"That's why we're running an illustration competition - to make sure we're including children's visual thoughts as well as using their words.
"The plot ideas that children came up with were really creative so I'm looking forward to seeing their artwork."
Allison Potter, Manager for Middlesbrough Reads, said: "Writing a book with a real life author has been a fantastic way to engage local children in literacy as they're able to include their own experiences and create a piece of Middlesbrough history.
"We had some lovely feedback from parents and teachers who found that their children became excited about reading for the first time because of this project.
"I'm delighted that we're now able to turn this story into a published book, with children's thoughts and creative ideas at its heart. A huge thank you to Rachael for organising the print run and I can't wait to help judge this competition! "
This initiative is one of many that Middlesbrough Reads has offered during lockdown. The campaign works to improve the literacy skills and future prospects of local children, and the Facebook page was originally set up in response to school closures to support families online.
Over the last few weeks, Middlesbrough Reads has created fun activities, promoted access to free resources, and has organised a Roald Dahl themed competition, all to keep children engaged in reading and wider literacy while they're at home.
Pictured: Parmo the sausage dog by artist Ann-Marie Sawdon