Stalham’s Big Community Read has everyone reading Once, by Morris Gleitzman

Vicars, veterans, lollipop ladies, lorry drivers, shopkeepers and schoolchildren - Stalham folk from all walks of life are getting their heads stuck in the same book.

Readers throughout the town are picking up a slim paperback called Once, and immersing themselves in the holocaust world of a Jewish boy in Poland during the second world.

Stalham's Big Community Read is a joint project between the town's high school and library, aimed at encouraging even reluctant readers to give the book a try and share their thoughts on it afterwards.

And next month Once's author, Morris Gleitzman, will be giving three talks at Stalham High School during a visit to Britain from his home in Australia.

Julia Lester, high school librarian, said they wanted to show the children that reading continued throughout life, and did not just happen at school, and also to give them an interesting topic of conversation to discuss with parents and other adults.

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While mums and dads often shared books with young children, the habit was usually lost by the time they transferred to secondary school, said Miss Lester.

The Rotary Club of Broadland has funded 125 copies of Once for the school and more are available for the public at the town's High Street library.

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Readers are urged to leave notes inside the book for the next person and to write reviews which will be published on-line.

High school pupil Ellie Horne, 12, said she had found Once good, but sad, and enjoyed seeing the war through a child's eyes.

The setting has special meaning for Polish-born Justyna Rollason, an English teacher at Stalham High, who grew up an hour's drive from the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

Mrs Rollason said visiting the camp had been compulsory for pupils and one of her set books at school had been written by Janusz Korczak, the author and doctor who tried save condemned Jewish children, who features in Once.

? Mr Gleitzman will be at Stalham High School on the morning of June 14. For free tickets call at the school or ring 01692 580281.

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