Sacks of fun offera novel approach to stories

As a National Year of Literacy is promised, Nadene Ghouri reports on two schemes to promote reading

"If I've sparked a love of literature in just one child then I'm a happy man," says Neil Griffiths, ex-primary head and the inventor of Story Sacks, a novel idea to promote the joy of reading.

His "very basic idea" is now used in primary schools in countries as diverse as Canada, America, Zaire, Kenya, Guatemala and Australia - "every continent actually" - not to mention several British schools.

As a result, Mr Griffiths was recently forced to choose between Story Sacks and his job as head of Westlea primary in Swindon.

Story Sacks won, and he is now funded by the Department for Education and Employment and the Basic Skills Agency to promote the scheme full-time.

A Story Sack is a big bag containing items intended to "bring a book to life".

If the book was Pingu the Penguin, the bag might contain models of a penguin, woolly scarves, a factual book about the North Pole, a game, and suggested activity ideas for parents and teachers.

Mr Griffiths said: "The idea is threefold. First, to make reading more enjoyable; second, to help teachers develop literacy skills; and third, to involveparents."

It is hoped the sacks will help parents to help their child read.

Mr Griffiths explained: "I was giving a parents' workshop and one mum said to me: 'My husband's a long-distance lorry driver who's never picked up a book in his life, you'll never get him to read with the kids'.

"The Story Sack that day was about an elephant and before long this man had taken off his shirt, wrapped it round his head and was pretending the sleeve was a trunk.

"He had his son on his back, and was parading around the room in front of all these people making elephant noises."

Mr Griffiths says the sacks are especially useful for children with learning or language difficulties.

Liane Billingsley, head of Stourport first school in Worcestershire, says her school has gone "Story Sack mad".

She said: "It's an absolutely brilliant idea. It's perfect for early-years literacy and it's a real boost for home-school liaison.

"We've gone for it in such a big way that we're building a special Story Sack room."

For more information on the Story Sack project call 01793 421168.

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