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Reading champions to the rescue

Children in England may enjoy reading less than those in most other countries, but reading for pleasure is an all-consuming theme at West Thornton Primary in Croydon, write Helen Ward and Adi Bloom.Inspectors who visited the 600-pupil school this month praised its reading champions scheme: 12 older boys, including Daniel Schofield (above), act as reading role models and are involved in managing literary events.

Rifat Chowdhury, 9, regularly requests books as birthday and Christmas presents. "I have nine PlayStation games. I think that's enough," he said. "But I read books every single day. And I choose long books, so they last three months."

In the past year, the school has closed the gap between boys and girls at reading in the key stage 2 tests.

But the school is not immune from national trends. While 11-year-old Michael Grasham enjoys reading, he also has a television set and PlayStation in his bedroom.

"It's more relaxing to watch TV or play games than to read," he said. "You have to concentrate when you read, but you don't have to concentrate when you watch TV."

But a TV-watching habit can be combined with enjoyment of reading. Nine-year-old Carlos Sousa, regularly reads film tie-in books. His shelf includes three Pirates of the Caribbean books, as well as Shrek and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

"Once I've seen the film, I know what the book is going to be like," he said, "so I know I'm going to enjoy it."

Photograph: Matt Gore.

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