Pantomime star’s storytelling encourages youngsters to enjoy reading

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A sheriff from the Wild West turned storyteller for an event that aimed to inspire children to enjoy reading.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Actor David Gant, who is playing Sheriff Phil Hiccup in Norwich Theatre Royal's pantomime Jack and the Beanstalk, spent yesterday morning at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library where he delighted his young audience by reading

the Raymond Briggs story Jim and the Beanstalk, a retelling of the classic fairytale and which sees Jim follow in the footsteps of his famous predecessor, Jack.

Mr Gant said it was important to inspire young people to enjoy reading because it encouraged them to explore different worlds and subjects and it also fired their imaginations.

'I think storytelling is exciting, and to be in the library with children of all ages telling the story of the pantomime, or in this case what happens after Jack and the Beanstalk, it's nice to talk to them and see the children paying attention to what is being read out...hopefully they will go home and talk to their parents about it and read more books.'

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant


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Elaine Simpson, a community librarian specialising in children's books, said yesterday's event was part of a long-running tradition in which each year one of the stars of the Theatre Royal pantomime visits the library to read to children.

'The glamour and the magic of the theatre is brought to the library for the children,' she said.

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'It's about extending the book for the children.'

When asked why it was so importance to excite youngsters about reading, she said: 'Everything starts with reading, especially in an age where people text and use the internet all the time.'

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Among the young people who enjoyed the storytelling session was seven-year-old Lewis Hambling, from Blicking Road, Norwich, who donned his own sheriff's hat especially for the occasion.

Lewis, who watched the Theatre Royal pantomime just before Christmas and likes to make his own pantomimes up at home, said: 'I thought it was great. I love hearing stories and like Sheriff Hiccup.'

FAVOURITE CHILDREN'S BOOK

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library.

Norwich Theatre Royal panto star David Gant giving a reading to children in the Millennium Library. Book fan Lewis Hambling, 7. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

At the storytelling session young readers recommended their favourite books:

• Eight-year-old Jack Samuel, from just off Heigham Street, said: 'My favourite book is Star Wars: Into Battle! because it has all the Star Wars stories in one book.'

• Jack's sister, Ellie Samuel, 10, said: 'I like Opal Plumstead by Jacqueline Wilson because it is a diary and feels like you are actually in the story.'

• Seven-year-old Lewis Hambling, from Blicking Road, Norwich, said: 'I like We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen - I like it when the bear chases them!'

• Six-year-old Summer Palmer, from Fiddlewood Road, Norwich, said: 'My favourite book is Mr Men: The Christmas Party. I like it when Little Miss Shy is shy.'

And community librarian Elaine Simpson also highlighted five of the most popular books or book series for children at the Norfolk and Norwich Millennium Library:

• That's Not My Lamb and and other 'That's Not My...' board books for children aged under 18 months.

'They are about the baby listening to the language and learning tactile sense.'

• The Gruffalo, Room on the Broom, and other books by Julia Donaldson.

'The stories are great and the language is all in rhyme, it's super for young people.'

• The Midnight Gang and other books by David Walliams

'David Walliams is like the modern day Roald Dahl. The characters in his books are really strong, the goodies are goodies and the baddies are baddies, and the stories are very fresh as well.'

• The Harry Potter series by JK Rowling

'They are great page turners with lots of mystery and adventure. JK Rowling is just a great yarn spinner.

People who grew up with Harry Potter are now sharing the stories with their children.'

• The Tom Gates series by Liz Pichon.

'It's a trend in children's books at the moment, there's a lot of graphics breaking up the text. If you look at the young people of today they have become more visual in how they are reading, with iPhones and screens they are learning to read in a more graphic way, they are learning to read pictures.'

Jack and the Beanstalk is being performed at Norwich Theatre Royal until Sunday, January 15.

Tickets for the pantomime cost £7-£23.50.

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk or call the box office on 01603 630000.

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