Celebrities, authors, businesses and members of the publishing industry have launched the Children's Reading Fund - a new fundraising drive that aims to "change the story" for the UK's most vulnerable and disengaged children through the power of stories and reading.
The fund has been created by Booktrust, an independent reading and writing charity (no relation to the Scottish Book Trust). Specifically targeting children aged between 4 and 11, it will use books and e-books, CDs, games and performance to inspire them to engage more with reading and writing.
Founding partners are James Patterson, whose books have sold more than 275 million copies worldwide, publisher Random House and bookseller Waterstones. Ambassadors include author Joanna Trollope, poet Lemn Sissay and TV presenters Cerrie Burnell, Dan Snow and Gaby Roslin.
The fund hopes to raise #163;2 million over three years to support disadvantaged children throughout the UK. The campaign is also being supported by Booktrust patron the Duchess of Cornwall and The View from the Shard, and fronted by much-loved children's literary characters Matilda, Zog and Tracy Beaker.
The project will extend the reach of the Booktrust's programmes that have helped thousands of children in the UK under 4. It aims to support a further 12,000 children over the next three years throughout the primary age range, targeting three key groups: children in care, children with additional needs, such as blindness, partial sight or deafness, and children whose parents can't afford to provide access to books.
James Patterson said: "If kids don't read, their chances to grow and develop and have choices later in life are reduced significantly. If I can help to make books and reading more important in children's lives, I'll be a happy man."