Today we are absolutely delighted to have a guest post from illustrator and author Shoo Rayner. Not only has Shoo written and illustrated over 175 books of his own (gasp!), he has also illustrated over 70 books for other authors, amongst them Michael Morpurgo and Michael Rosen!

Shoo is the first of a series of illustrators who will be joining us on the 31st of the months that have the extra day.

Look, read, and enjoy!

Children love drawing. Give them paper and pencil, suggest something for them to draw - maybe show them how to draw it - and they are away.

While they draw, they are improving their hand/eye co-ordination skills, learning about the thing they are drawing and building up a story.

When I show a class of children how to draw, there are a couple of minutes' silence, when I’ve finished, as they catch up and put the finishing touches to their masterpiece.

I love this moment. I wait for the hand to go up.

“Please Miss, can I draw a city in the back ground?” 

“Of course you may,” I say, and gently remind them I’m a mister not a miss!

“And can I draw an aeroplane in the sky?” asks another child.

“You can draw anything you like.” I smile, sweetly and innocently and nonchalantly add, “You could build up a whole story if you like.”

The blue touch paper has been lit. Stand back and watch what happens.

Their original drawings are soon surrounded with incidental detail, patterns, backgrounds, enemies, explosions, love-hearts jelly fish - you name it.

Each child is building up a story. 

“You can put some words in there if you like,” I tell them, adding a speech bubble or a caption to my drawing.

By the end of the lesson a class full of first drafts have been completed. The children who would normally be staring out of the window when asked to write, have their story organised and ready to go.

For many, myself included, the pictures aren’t a pretty thing that is added on at the end if there is time, the pictures are what it is all about. Its the words that are the embellishment. Words are decoding clues for the thick kids who can’t draw!

We are not all wired up the same way. The children who do words well, grow up to be the teachers, because the visual kids are excluded. Each new generation of education experts becomes more word biased than the one before and further removed from the visual.

Once there were art teachers and art rooms. The art room was a refuge for the visually and practically-minded. Now art seems to have become an academic subject to be written about. Sadly, examiners can only tick facts and not make subjective decisions.

Years ago, before photocopiers were invented, children used hard, shiny toilet paper to trace maps and pictures into their exercise books. The line was traced, then reinforced on the back with pencil, then traced again onto the paper and then redrawn over the faint image that had been transferred.

The image was drawn at least four times. As we know, repetition is the essence of learning. If you trace or draw the plans, maps and illustrations in your exercise book, you remember. 

If you draw freehand, you are so intensely involved in the process that, again, the message is deeply impressed, especially if the picture has to be planned and re-drawn to get it right.

Colouring in a worksheet is just filling in time - mere crowd control.

If you are wondering why half the children in a class don’t write and don’t retain information, maybe they are visually minded. Or maybe they see the world in numbers or in dance movements instead of words. Maybe their Fridays are lovely shade of orange - maybe they think literacy tastes of lemons. 

We are all wired up differently. 

Throw away the photocopier. Burn the worksheet. Let children illustrate their own work. The message and the lesson will be ingrained deeply in their subconscious. 

Maybe, once in a while, start a literacy lesson with drawing - if there is time left at the end of the lesson, then... let them write the story as a treat!