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Enraptured by Matilda's antics

Even better than home: the Sarah Bonnell school is the site for a successful summer literacy school.

They are spending hours each day, heads bent over their reading books, during their holidays and they are loving it.

Pupils at the Sarah Bonnell girls' secondary school in east London, the site of one of the Government's summer literacy schools, are much happier spending their vacation in the classroom than relaxing at home, they say.

Oblivious to the suffocating heat, they are happy to listen to the teachers reading aloud from Roald Dahl's Matilda and they then practise their reading, quietly to themselves.

"This is really good. We have watched the film of Matilda and now we are learning about her headmistress, Miss Trunchpot, from the book," said Danielle Harris. "I don't mind missing my holiday because my mum would just tell me to play outside and it's too hot."

At the beginning of the day the group divides in two and pupils sit and listen to their teacher reading Matilda.

"We stop them and ask them if they understand words and if they can predict what happens next," says Chris Allkins, the head of English language support at the school - where the summer's activities have been sponsored by News International, publisher of The TES.

Ms Allkins has missed out on a month's holiday in Spain to head the project and is determined to make it a success. She is even prepared to give one girl a lift to school to ensure she attends.

In the afternoons, the girls are asked to write about and draw pictures of Matilda, often using computers.

Their cartoon strips which illustrate the tricks the mischievous girl has played on her father cover the walls. Beside them are a selection of brightly-coloured prints produced by the girls after a visit by a children's book illustrator from Zimbabwe.

"I really like this school and I don't mind giving up my holiday at all, " said Bilam Kooshin, who is to become a pupil in September. "I have learned lots of new words and I think my reading has improved."

It is fortunate the pupils enjoy their reading so much, because it is not over when the school day ends at 2.30pm. The scheme also recommends they read with their parents for at least 15 minutes a night.

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