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Larne-born teacher's book to help kids during coronavirus lockdown goes global

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Mike Forde

Mike Forde

The cover of Mike's book

The cover of Mike's book

Mike Forde

A primary school teacher from Co Antrim has been left astounded after a book he wrote for his class to help deal with the lockdown reached a worldwide audience.

Mike Forde (28), from Larne, teaches at Ingleton Primary School in Lancaster and took inspiration from his class to write his first-ever children's book.

The book is called 'How to NOT go to school' and follows the adventures of a home schooled girl called Parsley Mimblewood.

After uploading it for free online, the book has been downloaded over 50,000 times and shared by thousands on Facebook. All Mike asks for in return is a small donation to the NHS as healthcare staff fight Covid-19.

How to NOT go to school has since been translated by teachers in Italy, France, Germany and Holland, while another version has also been translated by British Sign Language.

Teachers from as far as Mexico and New Zealand also got in touch with Mike, who said he never expected the response to be as great.

"It's just incredible to see this little book go so far," said Mike, who left Northern Ireland to study at St Andrew's University in Scotland in 2010.

"It's really nice because my class can see their class mascot - PomPom the ninja - become famous which is wonderful.

"We're raising a bit of money for the NHS as well which is a good outcome. It's just brilliant.

"An Italian school teacher wanted to give it to their kids so she's translated it.

"Lots of people seem to want to contribute and help which is amazing.

"I sent it to my old French teaching assistant, who now teaches as an English teacher in France, and she was saying that it has gotten really big there. There's lots of English teachers in France sharing it with their pupils to help learn English which is really fun."

Each chapter explores a different issue children may be experiencing during lockdown, interwoven with Parsley's adventures with her brother Po, their nanny goats and an eclectic group of imaginary friends.

After Mike first wrote the story he contacted artist Sarah Beswick and professional illustrator Rebecca Sampson, who created the drawings for the book.

Reflecting on his first thoughts for the story, Mike, who is married to Rebekah, explained that he wanted to help the parents of his pupils use it as a tool to discuss mental health and wellbeing.

"I knew the lockdown was going to be an enormous upheaval and I wanted to give them a way where they could openly talk about mental health and deal with those issues," he stated.

"The style is a bit like all of the books that we have been reading in class, such as the Philip Reeve and David Walliams books.

"I enjoy writing. I do it for fun and sometimes I share it with the children in class, but I have never had anything published or anything like that so it's incredible.

"It was just shared online and Facebook has done the rest."

Fans have already asked for a sequel, perhaps looking at how children can go back to school once the lockdown is over, but Mike hopes he can get How to NOT go to school published first.

When asked if writing children's books is something he could see himself doing full-time, Mike added: "I love teaching and I want to keep teaching, but it would be amazing to write as well and be published.

"The ideal would be able to do both of them but we'll see if that's possible."

To download How to NOT go to school, visit parsleymimblewood.wordpress.com

Belfast Telegraph