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Get Norfolk Reading: How can we inspire children to love books?

PUBLISHED: 09:16 24 February 2017 | UPDATED: 09:20 24 February 2017

Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk

Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk

Archant

For most people, there is a book - and a world of characters - which evokes particularly fond memories of childhood.

Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk

But amid concerns that not enough children are falling in love with reading, a drive to unlock the magic of stories has today been launched.

The Get Norfolk Reading campaign aims to infuse a love of books in children aged five to 11, both in the classroom and at home.

Led by the Transforming Education in Norfolk (TEN) academy group and supported by the EDP, it will see readings, competitions, projects and author visits organised around the county throughout the year.

A key part of the work will be with national charity Beanstalk, which will train volunteer readers to offer one-to-one support at schools. The drive has received the backing of headteachers, politicians and well-known faces, including Jake Humphrey and Ed Balls.

Mr Balls, former education secretary and Norwich City chairman, said: “Encouraging children to read for pleasure is an invaluable gift and one that we should be giving to every single child.

“But with smart phones and computer games offering such tempting alternatives, we cannot afford to just cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk Beanstalk volunteers reading with pupils. Picture: Beanstalk

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman said raising the level of aspiration in schools was “vital for our future” and described a love of reading as one that “opens doors in our minds and stays with us for the rest of our lives”.

“As Walt Disney said: ‘There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot of Treasure Island’,” he added.

Dick Palmer, chief executive of the TEN Group, praised the work already ongoing in Norfolk, but said the county as a whole could improve.

“Get Norfolk Reading is about bringing together all those in our county who are passionate about reading,” he said.

“We want to inspire a generation of lifelong readers, enriching young lives through the magic of books, and opening up all of the future opportunities that come with better childhood literacy.”

For information, visit www.getnorfolkreading.co.uk or email info@getnorfolkreading.co.uk

Ed Balls, chairman at Norwich City Football Club. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY Ed Balls, chairman at Norwich City Football Club. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

We asked our reporters to suggest 10 books that could encourage youngsters to develop their love of reading:

• The Mr Men books

• The Twits - Road Dahl

• The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - CS Lewis

• The Magic Faraway Tree series - Enid Blton

Children's books. 
Photo by Simon Finlay. Children's books. Photo by Simon Finlay.

• Journey to the River Sea - Eva Ibbotson

• The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark - Jill Tomlinson

• The Phantom Tolbooth - Norton Juster

• Winnie-the-Pooh - AA Milne

• Charlotte’s Web - EB White

• Horrid Henry - Francesca Simon and Tony Ross

George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk. Picture: Steve Adams George Freeman, MP for Mid Norfolk. Picture: Steve Adams

Why do we need the campaign?

The number of primary school learners in Norfolk reaching the government’s literacy standard falls below the national average.

Department for Education (DfE) figures from last year show 63pc reached the standard for reading around the county - below the national 66pc.

And 66pc of Norfolk pupils reached the expected level for grammar, punctuation and spelling, compared to 72pc nationally.

This time last year, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that English teenagers, aged 16 to 19, had the worst literacy levels in any developed nation.

Jake Humphrey. Picture: Submitted Jake Humphrey. Picture: Submitted

Poor literacy is linked with underachievement and behavioural problems in high school, lower employment rates, lower earnings, poorer health and greater risk of becoming involved in crime.

Evidence has suggested that reading for pleasure is more likely to determine whether a child does well at school than their social or economic background.

Support from television presenter

Television and radio presenter Jake Humphrey, a father-of-two, has backed the drive to turn more young people into bookworms.

He said: “As a parent of two little Norfolk-based children I am fully behind the Get Norfolk Reading campaign.

“From That’s Not My Dragon to Goodnight Moon to Giant Jam Sandwich - finishing the day with a book or three is one of the most rewarding parts of my day.”

He said the benefits of reading with youngsters were significant.

“Reading with children from just a few months old gives them literary skills and confidence, feeds their imagination and brings to life their creativity and the time us parents spend reading to them will live with them forever,” he said.

“It isn’t expensive, time-consuming or hard to do, and the earlier you start the better. So let’s make Norfolk a county of book-lovers starting today.”

• How has reading changed your life - and which books would you suggest children read? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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