Books project is out of this world

Doctor Who fan tempts hesitant readers with tales of the Tardis

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It has all the elements of a classic Doctor Who story arc: an unhappy schoolboy turned avenging crusader, someone crying "Exterminate!", and a heart-warming ending.

But this is not a fictional story, although it is a story about fiction. A formerly unhappy schoolboy, David Dovey, has saved thousands of Doctor Who books from landfill and is now giving them away free to schools across the UK.

It all began when Mr Dovey was at school himself. Mildly dyslexic, he was an extremely reluctant reader but an eager Doctor Who fan. So, when he discovered a copy of Doctor Who and the Cybermen in his school library, his reluctance was immediately forgotten.

"It was the first (thick) book that I read all the way through and couldn't put down," he told TES. "My schoolwork improved. A lot of Doctor Who fans say the same thing."

Jump in the Tardis and travel forward several decades to southeast England, where someone had dumped more than 14,000 vintage Doctor Who books in a skip. The books were still wrapped in the printer's original packaging.

The men hired to take them away were horrified at the idea of ruthlessly exterminating so many pristine books. And so, instead of throwing them away, they posted the entire collection on online auction site eBay, with a starting price of 99p.

Mr Dovey, now 47 and still a Doctor Who fan, remembered the impact the books had on him as a child and thought: "I wish I was rich - I'd love to buy all those and give them to schools." He spoke to some fellow fans and together they pooled just enough money to enter a winning bid of pound;656.

The books were all published between 1973 and 1994. Doctor Who novels from that era currently sell online for between pound;2 and pound;415 each, depending on rarity and condition.

Mr Dovey decided that schools should each receive between six and 10 books, with at least one or two including monsters recognisable to a modern-day audience - Cybermen, for example, or Daleks.

The first recipient was Featherstone Primary in Birmingham, the same school where, all those decades ago, Mr Dovey discovered Doctor Who and the Cybermen.

"The children are queuing up to borrow them," said Roberta Hill, Featherstone's literacy leader. "The books are brand new, so they don't look old. And the plots stand the test of time, because they're so incredible. They really capture the children's imagination."

Carol Hawling, librarian at Pittville School in the West of England, was unconcerned about the potential value of the books she has received. "I don't know about monetary value," she said. "I value them only for the fact that they are worth reading."

While keen to distribute the books as widely as possible, Mr Dovey is reliant on offers of help with delivery. A teacher from the Scottish Highlands, for example, will be passing near to Mr Dovey's home during the summer holidays and has offered to take back books for other schools in the Highlands.

"All we are is a bunch of fans who want to do this, because these are the books that got us into reading," Mr Dovey said. "So we say to schools, `we can get them to you - but very, very slowly'."

For more information on how to receive some of Mr Dovey's books, visit:

Adventures in space

For more Doctor Who resources, visit the TES Connect website:

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