Double life offers path to a world of wonder

ON WEEKDAYS, she is the director of development at Abbotsleigh, the north shore private school for girls.

Outside school hours, Jacqueline Harvey is the author of the popular Alice-Miranda children's series, chronicling the adventures of a young student at the Winchesterfield-Downsfordvale Academy for Proper Young Ladies.

Harvey is also one of more than a dozen authors and illustrators who will be speaking next month at a literary festival at Abbotsleigh, which is expected to draw about 1000 students from schools in Sydney and beyond.

The festival aims to foster creativity and motivate students to read with workshops and talks for those in preschool to year 12 by award-winning authors including Aaron Blabey, Gabrielle Wang, Hazel Edwards, John Marsden and Morris Gleitzman.

''It's really inspiring for kids to meet real authors,'' Harvey said. ''Often they have this vague notion of what it means to be a writer. You can take them through what inspires you, how you get your ideas - it makes it much more tangible for the kids.''

Abbotsleigh's junior school was ranked first in the country for writing in last year's National Assessment Program - Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) tests but the head of the junior school, Sally Ruston, said literacy skills must be supported by a flourishing sense of creativity, rather than ''teaching to the test''.

''Each child's own creativity needs to be encouraged … for great writing to occur against any measure, NAPLAN or otherwise,'' Ms Ruston said. ''Programs that teach students to write in a formulaic manner with a prescribed use of adjectives, similes and metaphors are like painting by numbers, in which every skerrick of creativity, imagination and joy from writing are driven out.''

There is an open invitation for other schools to attend the festival, which will be held from August 13 to 16.

The headmistress of Abbotsleigh, Judith Poole, said it gave the school an opportunity to share ''our passion for literature with the community''.

Harvey was looking forward to ''sharing stories, the love of what you do, being passionate about books and your characters'' with young readers.

''If it means you inspire one kid who wants to be a writer, who realises it's possible, not just a dream, [it's worth it],'' she said.

The story Double life offers path to a world of wonder first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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