I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation. My father was a fervent bibliophile and a brilliant storyteller too. Every night he would read to us children – Enid Blyton and Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Baroness Orczy. And we would sit transfixed, disappearing up Faraway trees, down rabbit holes, across Romney Marshes, through the stalls of Barchester Cathedral and into the depths of the Bastille. The power of a captivating story – a well-honed sentence – or a beautifully crafted character is immense, not only taking the reader – or listener – to different worlds, but broadening and stimulating the mind too.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before you all go on your various ways I just wanted to thank you very much, for coming here today to support the National Literacy Trust – as its Patron I feel honoured that so many of Britain’s finest writers are here, – hopefully, to promote literacy and reading in this country in their many different ways … and may I say how honoured I feel to be speaking in such august literary company.

I firmly believe in the importance of igniting a passion for reading in the next generation. My father was a fervent bibliophile and a brilliant storyteller too. Every night he would read to us children – Enid Blyton and Lewis Carroll, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope and Baroness Orczy. And we would sit transfixed, disappearing up Faraway trees, down rabbit holes, across Romney Marshes, through the stalls of Barchester Cathedral and into the depths of the Bastille. The power of a captivating story – a well-honed sentence – or a beautifully crafted character is immense, not only taking the reader – or listener – to different worlds, but broadening and stimulating the mind too.

Now – ladies and gentlemen there are many people in this country who have not had these advantages in their early years – and it is unbelievable to think that 1 in 6 people have literacy levels below those expected of an 11 year old – in twenty-first century Britain these – (as I am sure you all agree) are shocking statistics.

Research undertaken by this Trust has clearly shown how literacy has an enormous impact on someone’s chances and quality of life – affecting their employability – social mobility and aspiration – and ultimately, their happiness and personal fulfilment.

If you can help us climb this mountain we would be forever in your debt, - after all reading is the fount of all knowledge – and a world without books is too hideous even to contemplate.