Reading all about it

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With the phenomenal success of children’s fiction characters such as Harry Potter and Horrid Henry, you’d be forgiven for thinking children’s reading is on the up.

But a new survey suggests fewer than half of children read a book outside the classroom every month.

The survey of 18,000 schoolchildren by the National Literacy Trust suggests youngsters are more likely to read text messages and emails than fiction.

Most children (28.9 per cent) estimated they had between 11 and 50 books in their homes. But one in six said they rarely read away from school.

Nearly one in five children have never been given a book as a present. This was more common for boys than girls.

Around one in eight claimed they had never been to a bookshop and seven per cent of children said they had never visited a library.

Yet almost half of children surveyed said they enjoyed reading a lot and only one in 10 said they did not like it at all.

The National Literacy Trust is concerned that some youngsters are not reading at all, which can hinder their achievement in the classroom.

Trust director Jonathan Douglas says he is worried the youngsters who do not read for pleasure will grow up to be the one in six adults who struggle with literacy.

He said: “Getting these children reading and helping them to love reading is the way to turn their lives around and give them new opportunities and aspirations.”

But a scheme running at libraries across Northamptonshire is addressing this issue.

The summer reading challenge encourages children to read at least six books during their school summer holidays to maintain their reading skills and encourage their enjoyment of reading.

Ian Loveland, library assistant at Corby Library, said: “The summer reading scheme is about getting children reading books and to keep it going over the summer holidays.

“This is educational but it’s also fun. We’ve had a lot of great feedback from parents. We’ve had a lot of new library members since it began.”

Children who completed the challenge were invited to Corby Library this week to collect a medal and certificate.

Among them was Robert Fawcett, nine, who said: “We had to read six books over the summer holidays and at the end we got a certificate and a medal.

“I like reading Horrid Henry books. I read one about him playing in the FA Cup final. But my favourite is JK Rowling. I haven’t read all the Harry Potter books yet but I’ve read some.”

Also completing the challenge was seven-year-old Lauren Butterworth.

She said: “I am a good reader, I’m at the highest level in my school.

“I like learning new words from books because it means I can use them when I go to school.

“I read every day. My favourite book from this summer was Lauren and the Puppy Fairy because it’s the same as my name! It is about a dog that gets lost, the goblin takes it away, and the girls have to rescue it.”

Grace Allen, four, took part in the challenge and read books including I Don’t Like Peas and Fireman Sam.

Her childminder Julia Smith said: “She’s still quite young so Grace likes books with pictures. We have great fun looking at the pictures together.

“The reading challenge is a great idea because you can come here for an hour or so and read or take books home with you. The children will help each other choose books and the older ones will help the little ones with their reading.”

Maisie McDowell, seven, has already finished eight books over the summer holiday.

She said: “My favourite book this summer was Maisie and the Moonbeam Fairy. There are these devils who try and take Maisie and the girls have to save her from getting kidnapped.

“It’s a bit scary but it has a happy ending.

“I read every morning at school and every night at home.”