A TALENTED 10 year-old from Desertmartin has beaten the odds to become the world’s first child author of a book about the care of terrapins and turtles for children.
Mark Ritchie, a Primary Seven pupil at Desertmartin Primary School, finished his book ‘Life with Turtles’ this year after receiving encouragement from teachers, classroom assistants and even an American author.
The achievement is all the more greater for Mark who suffers from dyslexia and has struggled to read and write in the past.
Staff at the primary school are now hoping to help Mark’s dream of having his book published by sending out an appeal to both the local and business communities for help.
Speaking about the P7 pupil’s achievement, principal Mrs Fullerton said: “For some people there are things in life that are difficult through no fault of their own, and for Mark reading had been very difficult but he tried, and he tried, and he tried again. He never gave up ever.
“He didn’t ever rebel against it and he could have easily decided that he wasn’t coming to school, but, he didn’t do any of those things. He stuck at it and it has paid off big dividends. I am just so proud of what he done and Mark should be very proud of himself.”
Mark also received help through LLTS teacher Mrs Alexander and Learning Support Assistant Mrs Palmer.
Both were brought to the school to help Mark with his dyslexia and have watched his “amazing” progress over the last seven years.
“People are good at different things but when you are generally not good at something you don’t always keep going at it but Mark has always persevered and he has always been so willing,” explained Mrs Palmer.
“If you ask Mark does he want to try something, he grabs it with two hands and he tries his best and it is a fantastic achievement for him to have done this and to have got to this stage.”
Mrs Alexander added: “I am from the North Eastern Board but it was actually through the good efforts of Mark’s mummy and the headmistress of the school that brought me here.
“If they hadn’t of been so persistent and insistent on this wonderful boy, who is so talented but had a literacy difficulty, and I am putting it as ‘had’, has worked so well with Mrs Palmer here.
“I was instrumental but Mrs Palmer here and mummy and daddy were the key people, second only to the man himself of course.”
Mark’s mum Caroline paid tribute to the help Mark received from those at Desertmartin Primary School.
“I am so proud. We are all so proud of him. If it wasn’t for the school this wouldn’t have been done, they have been so good over the years,” she said.
“Mark come to the school and the first year was probably the worst for him. Reading and writing absolutely traumatised him but through the good work of the school, Linda (Mrs Palmer) was brought in and through the Education Board we eventually got Mrs Alexander in and they have worked day after day with him and got him to where he is at now, about to go to High School.”
If published, the proceeds of Mark’s book ‘living with Turtles’ will go to Macmillan Cancer Care. But first the ten year-old needs help from either the local or business communities to turn his dream into reality.
Mrs Palmer added: “We are putting out an appeal for a local company or somebody to sponsor 50 or 100 books just to get it out there.
“Mark himself has put so much work into his book. He got in touch with an author in America called Russ Gurley, who has helped Mark to get the book to this stage with editing and getting it ready for publishing.”
Mrs Alexander continued: “We have established with Russ, who is an authority on terrapins and turtles, that there is no children’s book existing about the care of terrapins or turtles so Mark is the author of the only terrapin book for children about the care.”
On Thursday Mark was presented with a special gift as well as books from American author Russ Gurley, presented to the 10 year-old by the wrier’s father-in-law Eddie Regan. Magherafelt District Council’s Sean Henry was also on hand to congratulate Mark, who said: “I wrote my book because I have two terrapins of my own, Jack and Tubby. It was hard but I got great help from Mrs Alexander and Mrs Palmer.”
If you can help in any way to publish Mark’s book, ‘Living with Turtles’, contact Desertmartin Primary School, 20 Dromore Road, Desertmartin, BT45 5JZ. Tel: 028 796 34131