I was very lucky to have a father who read to us when we were children – and he didn’t just read books – he brought them alive. We couldn’t wait for the next chapter. So my love of reading started early and has stayed with me all my life. And, looking back, that was one of the greatest gifts my father could have given me.
I have been Patron of the National Literacy Trust since 2010 because I wanted to help them in their mission to improve the reading and writing skills of children all over the country. What is more, their projects are full of imagination and enthusiasm. Thanks to them, I have taken part in a book-nic (a picnic with books instead of food), and I’ve beaten Gaby Roslin at Scrabble! So you can imagine how pleased I was to be asked to write about this ‘Books for Schools’ campaign, run by the National Literacy Trust and The Sun.
We all know how important reading is for our children, but it might surprise you that a good reader can also improve their skills in maths and science. There are other untold and astonishing benefits. Research has shown that reading for pleasure improves how children think, explore and figure things out between the ages of 10 and 16.
Sadly, there are many children who have not yet been given the chance to discover the magic of reading, or set foot in the worlds you can discover on bookshelves. Finding the right book can be the key. It might be opening the door of the wardrobe into Narnia, training an owl with Harry Potter or plotting to steal the Crown Jewels with Gangsta Granny. Or it could be a factual book about computer coding, climate change or cookery that catches their fancy and ends up sparking an obsession that lasts for a lifetime.
I hope that readers of The Sun will support this campaign to put more books into the hands of children. From my own experience, I know how important reading together can be for parents and children. Just as my father read to us as children, I read to my own children, and now to my grandchildren too.
Spending time together with a book is much more than just learning to read. My hope is that with the success of this campaign, there will be many more people who are about to begin a lifelong love of books with all the pleasure and benefit that brings.