From today, Middlesbrough residents can buy a copy of Parmo to the Rescue!, a book written and illustrated with help from dozens of local children. The story is the result of a partnership between author Rachael Wong and Middlesbrough Reads, created to give children a voice during lockdown.
Parmo to the Rescue!, named after the sausage dog protagonist, follows a Middlesbrough family as they navigate life in lockdown. The project started as a series of chapter-length videos on the Middlesbrough Reads Facebook page. Children were invited to submit plot ideas which were weaved into the story. The full story racked up 6,500 views and a number of local primary schools also got involved as children of keyworkers worked together to help the story unfold.
To celebrate the announcement of the published book we launched an illustration competition with winning artworks to be featured in the published edition. Over 150 children took part and their entries were whittled down to a final 30 drawings that appear in the book.
250 free copies of Parmo to the Rescue! are being donated to Middlesbrough’s primary schools and children who contributed to the story are set to receive signed copies in the post. An additional 100 copies will also be donated to libraries across the town. Beech Grove Primary School are being sent 60 copies, enough for an entire year group, to celebrate the successful input of so many of their pupils.
The story is part of Middlesbrough Reads’ campaign to improve the literacy and future prospects of the town’s children. Our research shows that Middlesbrough has the greatest literacy need of any area in England. Nationally, the impact of COVID-19 on lost learning is set to reverse all progress made to narrow the attainment gap in the last decade. However, reading has provided solace for many children this year and 1 in 3 (34.5%) say they read more often during lockdown than before and 1 in 4 (27.6%) say they enjoy reading more. Middlesbrough Reads hope that Parmo to the Rescue! will harness this love for reading and the project has even caught the attention of the campaign’s ambassador, best-selling author Adele Parks, who has written a foreword for the book.
Parmo to the Rescue! is available to buy from Drake – The Bookshop via its online store or free click and collect service. 100% of all sales made by Drake’s will be donated to the Middlesbrough Reads campaign to help improve the literacy and future prospects of local children.
Rachael Wong, author of Parmo to the Rescue!, said: “The published version of Parmo to the Rescue! is the perfect end to this community-led project. The story has given a voice to children’s experiences of lockdown, and the illustrations in the final book showcase their creative talents. Middlesbrough’s young people have really impressed me throughout the project. I have thoroughly enjoyed everything from reading their plot ideas while we were making the original videos, to seeing their illustration submissions for the final book. It is wonderful to have helped create this slice of local history.”
Allison Potter, Manager for Middlesbrough Reads, said: “Parmo to the Rescue! is an example of what can be done with brilliant authors, dedicated teachers, supportive partners and parents, and creative young people. The project was the perfect way to keep children engaged with literacy while schools were closed for the majority of pupils and the story has become an uplifting memento that frames the pandemic from the perspective of local children and their families.”
Charlene Adamson, local parent, said: "All three of my children took part in the Parmo to the Rescue! initiative earlier in the year and we are all so excited that the published version is finally here! Not only is it a great way to tell a community story but it is also a one of our favourite memories during what has been a stressful 2020. It's amazing that we've got something positive to take away from this."