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Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils: Seaton Sluice Middle School

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Town is by the Sea

By Sarah Curry

Despite being an avid reader as a child, finding the time and inclination to read as an adult proved more challenging. That is, until I was given the opportunity to join the ‘Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils’ programme. Remembering my past love of reading, I jumped at the chance – the dedicated space and time to read appealed to me, along with the chance to regain my love of reading through well-chosen books I wouldn’t necessarily choose for myself. The venue of Seven Stories only added to the programme’s charm for me.

Throughout the RTRP programme a large number of excellent books have been shared, discussed and used in our classrooms. One book used within my classroom is ‘Town is by the Sea’, written by Joanne Schwartz and illustrated by Sydney Smith. As someone who works in the stunning village of Seaton Sluice, located right next to Seaton Delaval and New Hartley (both previously mining villages), this book just seemed to fit.

1862 was the year of the terrible New Hartley Pit Disaster which resulted in the loss of 204 men and children. Research was carried out into the tragedy before putting ourselves into the shoes of the miners. We thought about what it would be like to be a coal miner; reflected on how dangerous a job mining was; and imagined how families might have felt watching their loved ones leave for a day down the pit.

Analysing scenes from the text was another activity we completed, which involved looking at the illustrations: location, characters, point of view, and predictions were all shared and discussed. In addition, we looked at the artist L.S. Lowery for further inspiration before sketching our own scenes in the same style.
To finish, we looked at the comparison between the beautiful, bright sea above and the dark, dingy mine below, running throughout the text. Pupils created poems – using figurative language – which described the two different scenes in detail, and introduced the feelings these scenes evoked.

Town is by the Sea’ is not a book I had heard of before it was introduced at a RTRP meeting. However, after teaching it for the last two years, I am pleased it is now on my bookshelf. Along with other books from the programme, it is used at Seaton Sluice Middle to help encourage our pupils to read for pleasure.