A story competition that was established by optometrist Simon Berry earlier this year proved so popular that entries have now been published in a book titled The Gilesgate Story Challenge.
The Durham optometrist, who owns Simon Berry Optometrists, launched the competition in order to celebrate World Book Day in a way that was all inclusive for children, he told OT.
The competition, which asked children up to the age of 16 to write a story of at least 2020 words that was about vision or eyes, attracted 70 entries, with eight local schools taking part. There was also a prize for flash fiction of less than 100 words.
The overall winner was nine-year-old Jayden Vierra, whose story The tragic tale of Jake the snail, features a message about there being nothing bad about wearing glasses.
Speaking about the winning story, Mr Berry said: “It was one of the stories that had a beginning, a middle and an end. The whole thing flowed well, was funny and was very imaginative.”
The competition received such a positive response that Mr Berry has self-published a book that features all of the entries.
Mr Berry said: “It started as a small thing, but really grew and the kids put so much effort in. The whole point was to try and inspire children not to have limits on it so I decided that we would print all the stories.”
The optometrist revealed that reading through the stories, he was shocked that at least 50% of them featured characters who were bullied because they wore spectacles.
“It was very surprising to read that’s how children still feel,” Mr Berry said, adding: “While it doesn’t mean that everyone has an experience of being bullied, it does mean that it is in children’s minds and it is what they think or have seen happen to those wearing glasses.”
The competition was judged by Mr Berry, Heidelberg Engineering’s Tim Cole, who also illustrated the book, and children’s author Lucy Catchpole.
The self-published book is available to purchase at Waterstones in Durham as well as at Simon Berry Optometrists.
Mr Berry confirmed that he hopes that the competition will be run annually, with a different local organisation hosting it each year. “I think Durham Wildlife Trust will run it next year and it will be about wildlife,” he shared.