World Book Day with a Scots twist
To mark World Book Day on 3rd March, the children in my son’s class were challenged to create a new eco-themed Mr Man. And so, the slightly overzealous Mr Recycle came into being! Great fun all round - and no doubt similar projects will have taken place in schools nationwide, not to mention countless events in libraries, bookshops and other cultural watering holes.
The first thing that popped into my own head when the eco- Mr Man letter came home from school was 'Mister Mank'. Mr Mank is a bottle-bank dwelling Scots creation hailing from Blethertoun Braes, a book of manky mingin rhymes in Scots.
Current research shows that Scots is still widely spoken, to varying degrees, across Scotland. However, years of it being banned in schools, and in many cases at home, has sidelined the language.
When I was growing up, Scots was strictly for the playground (and Burns Day celebrations). In the intervening years and most noticeably in the last decade or so, recognition and respect for the Scots language has gone through something of a resurgence.
Rather than facing the belt (or at least a richt guid tellin' aff), nowadays Scottish children are actively encouraged to use Scots in the classroom. This important cultural shift has the full support of the Scottish parliament, Scottish educational agencies and many teachers, academics and celebrated writers such as Alexander McCall Smith and Scots’ Makar Liz Lochhead. Studies have clearly shown that when schools validate the languages and dialects children use in their home lives it has positive and empowering results.
There is a growing wealth of wonderful Scots language resources around. Teachers can dip into teaching materials written with particular local dialects in mind and the Scottish government have sponsored an ongoing school programme which brings Scots into the classroom.
Small independent publishing companies publish both original Scots children’s books and translations from English. Organisations like the Scottish Storytelling Centre regularly run Scots events.
My own kids love being read pretty much anything, but have a particular fondness for Scots books. I personally love listening to the richness of the language, from Katie’s Coo (read to each of them on my knee when they were barely old enough to chew the cardboard), to the adventures of Wee Grumphie and Hee Haw (aka Piglet and Eeyore). Even more enjoyable than reading Winnie the Pooh in Scots is watching my partner struggle to get through a page, without collapsing in guffaws.
It occurred to me, writing this, that it would be gey braw if my weans' school celebrated World Book Day next year with a Scots themed project. But, just as reading is not just for World Book Day, Scots should not just for Burns Day and other 'special' occasions. As indicated in the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence guidelines, Scots should be woven into the school day and embraced for its richness and as part of our Scottish heritage.
Flora Napier works for BBC Learning Scotland.