Sir Lenny Henry visit inspires children to keep writing

“Reading about people of colour going on out-of-this-world adventures would have made me feel more included in the world.”

By Neandra Etienne

Sire Lenny Henry holds up a copy of his new book
Sir Lenny Henry. Photo: Neandra Etienne

Newham Schools gathered together in Old Town Hall, Stratford on 11 October for a visit from British actor, comedian and author Sir Lenny Henry.

From the moment he mimed his way to the stage Sir Lenny had the full attention of the school children and it was great to see him interact with them.

Sir Lenny told Newham Voices:

“It was a brilliant opportunity to introduce my new children’s book, Clash of the Superkids, to so many enthusiastic children. It’s the third story starring Tunde the winged superhero, and follows my first book The Boy with Wings, then Attack of the Rampaging Robot which I wrote for World Book Day.

“It was great telling the children about the book, reading them extracts, and hearing all their best jokes. I hope I inspired the children to have a go at writing their own stories, and helped them to realise how much fun coming up with ideas is!”

After the event Sir Lenny spent time with the school children, signing books and taking photos.

Menahil Butt, Assistant Head Teacher and English Lead at Nelson Primary School told Newham Voices:

“I think it was an amazing once in a lifetime experience – because we know he is really busy doing interviews so it was special that he took the time to be with us. A few children have been inspired to take part in the 500-word reading challenge because of the trip! Taking their own initiative to take part. The children remember that he said “whenever you see a strange thing, write it down!” Take a book and pen with you wherever you go.””

Sir Lenny explained why he decided to write Children’s books:

“I was an avid reader as a child, and loved escaping into different magical worlds and going on amazing adventures with the characters. Reading enhanced my imagination, gave me joy and a sense of what is possible to achieve. But I didn’t see myself reflected in the stories I read. It’s very important for children of all backgrounds to see themselves in books, so that they feel accepted. That’s why I began to write children’s books. Writing is also so much fun – you really can write from anywhere!”

Sir Lenny also reflected on how different his childhood would have been if his younger self could have read his children’s books:

“Reading about people of colour going on out-of-this-world adventures would have made me feel more included in the world. It also meant the world to me as a child to escape into so many different imaginary worlds through books, so I would have loved to read about Tunde, an ordinary boy who has extraordinary adventures. Like many of the books I read as a child, reading Clash of the Superkids would have told me to expect the unexpected and that you really can accomplish anything!”

He added: “Clash of the Superkids is an action-packed adventure: Tunde’s parents take him to a top-secret testing facility where he meets loads of other children with super powers, including Tai-phoon who controls the weather and Backflash who can go back in time. There’s some very scary things going on in the facility but to find out more, you’ll have to read it!

Sir Lenny Henry’s visit was organised jointly by Newham Bookshop and Newham Libraries. They brought together 370 children from 13 schools across the Borough.