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12 / 16 The Cat at the Window: Gayhurst School

Students came to the Hackney Reading Centre at Centerprise because they had been failed by the education they had received as children or had missed out on school due to caring responsibilities, bullying or racism. Irene Schwab, teacher, remembers one of her students, Paulette John-Baptiste:

'Paulette had been coming to literacy classes at the Hackney Reading Centre for some years. She had already contributed a piece about the birth of her daughter, Nicola, to Every Birth It Comes Different. As Nicola got older, Paulette found that many children's books were hard for her to read and hard for Nicola to understand. So she decided to write her own book for Nicola, called Cat at the Window. She worked on it for a while, reading the drafts to Nicola and piloting it with other young children.

Paulette took the finished book to Nicola's school to ask the children there if they would do some illustrations. The school head asked Paulette to read the book aloud to the whole school. Of course, she was very nervous but she did it successfully and all the children and staff applauded her. The whole school wanted to help draw pictures for the book, but that would have been too many, so in the end it was just Nicola's class who did the illustrations. Paulette's husband Eustace did a drawing for the front cover of the book.

Paulette helped produce the book and the school asked to buy 100 copies. Paulette took the finished books to the school, feeling really proud of her achievement and confident enough to plan another book.'


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Cover of Cat at the Window, 1983 © Eustace John-Baptiste