'Christmas come early'

Sainsbury, Royal Mail, Whitbread, Golden Wonder, Tate Lyle, Stagecoach, BT and News International (publisher of The TES Scotland) are among the companies taking part in the National Year of Reading, with staff involved in sponsorship and outreach programmes.

"For those of us involved in literacy, this is like Christmas come early, " said Louise Hayward, assistant principal of St Andrews College.

Programmes like the READ project - Raising Early Achievement in Dundee - are reporting early signs of success. Originally based in 13 primary schools in areas of social deprivation, and focused on primaries 1 and 2, the scheme is now expanding to the whole city and is increasingly a whole-school approach.

Adult schemes like Second Chance to Learn also claim to make a difference. One young woman who did Higher English in a year wrote in its annual report: "Before I came to Second Chance to Learn, I used to believe what MPs said. "

Chris Dolan, playwright and former writer-in-residence in Easterhouse, Glasgow, gave a more guarded welcome. "We need to see it in a broader context - of library hours being restricted and drama teachers being laid off. If we really want to give power to literacy, we have to give power to those departments as well."

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