Book champions hope to score a home victory

READING is the latest activity to be given the "czarist" treatment with news that a "home reading co-ordinator" will be appointed before the end of the year. A number of well-known names have also agreed to become "reading champions".

The initiative was launched at the Edinburgh International Book Festival last Saturday by Cathy Jamieson, Education Minister. It is intended to reinforce moves to improve children's literacy and numeracy announced in June. Development co-ordinators will be appointed to work with schools and local authorities.

The Scottish Executive's latest plans, however, focus on the home and are intended to persuade parents, and particularly fathers, to read with children. Tackling literacy gaps between boys and girls is one of the priorities.

Ms Jamieson highlighted the range of reading that parents can introduce, "from the latest Harry Potter book to studying a football programme at the match on a Saturday afternoon".

Among an eclectic mix of people who have agreed to become reading champions are Tam Cowan, the football pundit, Carry Coupland of The Singing Kettle and household names in children's writing such as Joan Lingard, Alison Prince and Aileen Paterson.

Ms Jamieson said research showed that parents appear to read to children about five times a week, "but it is mostly mothers who do the reading," she added. "This could lead to children thinking that reading is not something that men do. The research also indicates that children from better-off families are more likely to read."

A leaflet for parents of children aged 0-8 outlines the benefits of home reading and an advertising campaign will be launched in November. Grants worth pound;300,000 will be be available from next April to support local projects such as book sharing clubs.

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