Bear helps Amber catch writing bug
A TEN-YEAR-OLD schoolgirl who overcame learning difficulties by writing stories for her toy bear has gone on to inspire a national literacy competition.
Autistic youngster Amber Wess has seen dramatic improvements in her reading skills and self-confidence through using a 'story buddy' developed by Hallmark.
Cooper the Bear is designed to talk when certain key words are read to him.
Amber, from Winterley, near Sandbach, loved her cuddly toy so much that she soon ran out of books to read to him. She decided to create her own adventures to prompt him to speak back to her.
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When the Haslington Primary pupil wrote to Hallmark to tell them about her stories, she was amazed at the reply.
"Hallmark said they were so proud of what I'd done that they wanted to run a story-writing competition for other children. They asked me to be a judge. I felt very excited," she said.
Amber helped whittle down entries from hundreds of primary schoolchildren across the country and the winning piece has now been turned into a story buddy book in time for Christmas.
It is based on another character in the toy series and is called 'Bigsby Gets A Pet Mouse', below.
Amber's mother Caroline Wess, aged 43, said: "Amber used to read very fast and skip quite a lot. Her reading was poor for her age. But she's come on in leaps and bounds.
"She no longer gabbles when she reads and she understand the books better. Cooper has made all the difference and her confidence has gone through the roof."
Amber also used to find it difficult to interact with others because of her autism. But she now practises talking to Cooper before chatting to her friends.
Pauline Chappell, Amber's grandmother, bought her the toy as a Christmas present last year.
The 64-year-old, from Winterley, said: "I couldn't believe how she responded to it."
Amber is busy penning more stories after catching the writing bug.
"There are three books that go with each story buddy and once I'd read all Cooper's stories I got a bit bored," she said.
"That's when I wanted to create stories for him. I wrote one called 'Jingle At The Fair'. I thought it was really good.
"I'm now thinking of writing a school adventure."
Cooper accompanied Amber to Hallmark's head office, in Bradford, for the judging session. The judges drew up a shortlist and the final winner was then chosen by public vote.
It was written by a group of pupils from Victoria Primary, in Leeds, and is now on sale at Hallmark stores.
Fellow judge Emma Bragg, from Hallmark, said: "Amber is an inspiration and should be extremely proud of herself for sparking this national story-writing contest.
"The objective of the competition was to encourage children to read and write through storytelling."