My teenage night­mare

TV Times - - Interview - The School That Got Teens Read­ing satur­day / bbc2 / 8.00Pm Sarah Sel­wood

co­me­dian and book­worm Javone Prince on the daunt­ing prospect of in­spir­ing teens to start read­ing…

Javone Prince and the new book-lov­ing pupils


For many of us, the thought of giv­ing a pre­sen­ta­tion to a room of teenage school pupils would turn us into quiv­er­ing wrecks – let alone try­ing to con­vince them to swap so­cial me­dia and TV for books.

But that’s ex­actly what ac­tor and co­me­dian Javone Prince has to do in BBC2’S one-off doc­u­men­tary

The School That Got Teens Read­ing.

As part of the BBC’S Love­toread cam­paign, Javone was in­vited to spend three weeks at Ri­p­ley St Thomas Academy, a top se­condary school in Lan­caster, in a bid to in­spire a group of re­luc­tant pupils to fall in love with lit­er­a­ture.

The teach­ers had tried ev­ery tra­di­tional trick in the book

– from a new li­brary to putting read­ing on the timetable. So they de­cided it was time for a more un­con­ven­tional ap­proach and asked Javone, who has no for­mal ed­u­ca­tional train­ing, only a gen­uine pas­sion for read­ing, to shake things up in the class­room.

‘It’s the scari­est thing I’ve ever done – I was pet­ri­fied,’ shud­ders Javone, as he chats to TV Times.

‘I’ve been on stage, done standup and been put on the spot a lot for act­ing – all fine. But schoolkids – no. They can see and smell your fear. They can tell if you’re a fraud.’

Javone, who has dys­lexia, chose pupils who hadn’t read in over a year, then gave them 24 hours to read some of Sarah Crossan’s award-win­ning young adult fic­tion novel One.

How­ever, he soon re­alised he had his work cut out when most failed to even read a page, pre­fer­ring to browse so­cial me­dia pages or watch Net­flix.

‘I thought they’d lis­ten to me, they’d think: “I’m a cool guy, I’m on TV”,’ laughs Javone, who has starred in C4 com­edy Phoneshop and has his own BBC2 sketch show, The Javone Prince Show.

‘I was of­fended! I was like: “It’s not the book, they re­ally hate me”.

‘I found my­self up against Twit­ter, Face­book, In­sta­gram, Snapchat, and TV. This gen­er­a­tion is about in­stant ac­cess. They haven’t got time for read­ing.

‘So I had to think of new things to get them in­ter­ested, such as role-play ex­er­cises to get them into the mind of the char­ac­ters.’

Javone’s a reg­u­lar on ac­claimed CBBC se­ries Hor­ri­ble His­to­ries, and be­lieves that sim­i­larly we just need to find new ways to make read­ing more ac­ces­si­ble for today’s teenagers.

‘We have to move with the times,’ he says. ‘The rea­son I wanted to do this pro­gramme was be­cause I wish some­one had told me how amaz­ing read­ing was when I was a 15-yearold. It was so re­ward­ing.’

is PRE­VIEWED on PAGES 36-37 livia, 15, di­ag­nosed with dys­lexia 18 months ago, tells us how the pro­gramme has helped her…

‘I’d never seen Javone be­fore he came into the school,’ says olivia. ‘He came across well and in­spired me when he talked about his own dys­lexia. He said he found it hard as well, but you must keep push­ing your­self.

‘Be­fore, I wasn’t fussed about read­ing, but the pro­gramme has built my con­fi­dence. now I read for 15-20 min­utes be­fore I go to bed. He has shown me that just be­cause I have dys­lexia doesn’t mean I’m go­ing to do badly in life. ‘For a long time I thought I could never achieve any­thing as I’ve never done well in tests, but it’s taught me if I push my­self I can get to that level.

‘In my english exam I usu­ally get 15 out of 50, but I got half marks this time, which I’m so happy about. If I do well in my Gcses, I’m hop­ing to do a-lev­els as I want to be a den­tist.’


Javone Prince with olivia

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