Pudsey Bear helps pupils tackle mental health issues with special programme
Pudsey Bear made a special appearance in Londonderry where he presided over a graduation ceremony for 120 school children who completed the Reading Rooms programme run by the Verbal Arts Centre.
The children from schools across the Derry and Strabane Council area completed a 12-week programme aimed at getting them to talk about their feelings using characters in carefully selected books and short stories.
Along with a special certificate the children also received a collection of books including the Gangsta Granny by David Walliams, pens, pencils, stickers, bookmarks and they even got to meet the Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor John Boyle.
The award-winning choir from Thornhill College provided music while parents and teachers looked on.
Caitlin Deeney from Verbal who helped deliver the programme said: "Reading Rooms is funded by Children in Need which is why we have Pudsey Bear with us to make the presentation to all the children who have taken part over these past 12 weeks.
"The programme is primarily aimed at promoting good mental health and that is done through literature to get the children to talk about their feelings through the safety of the characters in a book. "We go out to all the participating schools with the books which have been carefully selected by the literary guides within Verbal.
"These books are chosen so as to get the best conversation from the children based on the overall theme of resilience.
"This resilience theme is broken down into smaller sub-themes such as risk taking, empathy, decision making, families or bullying or feeling sad."
She continued: "The subtleties of the programme mean that the children won't even be aware that they are being encouraged to talk about their feelings, which is why so many of them will say it helped them to read and to enjoy reading."
Among those who were presented with certificates were Ciara Bowen from St Anne's Primary School and James McElwee from The Fountain Primary School.
Ciara said: "I wasn't that good at reading and I didn't like reading but now I am a lot more interested in it.
"We read different chapters and one that I liked was about a man and his son who got lost on the beach and then they went looking for him.
"I like reading more and I can read in front of people now.
"We do reading in class and we have to go up to the teacher's desk and read in front of everybody. I didn't like that but now I do."
James has also come away from the programme with a new love of reading.
He said: "I enjoyed doing the reading programme because I wasn't so keen on reading but now I am.
"My favourite thing was learning about the Curing Fox. It was about an old lady who came to a wee girl who was sick and said she heard a fox who was weak and starving.
"She wanted the daddy to go out and find the fox but he wasn't too pleased but he still went and did it.
"When he came back the fox and the girl got better because they needed each other.
"I like books like that. I didn't read that much at home but from now on I want to read more at home and during the school holidays."