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Soaps and crisps to boost literacy

From crisp packets to TV soaps, there will be no escape from the National Year of Reading - if the Government has its way.

The year was launched yesterday, with Education Secretary David Blunkett's announcement of Pounds 23 million for schools to spend on new books.

TV-watching pupils will also be absorbing the "read me" message via Brookside, as well as Grange Hill, Hollyoaks, The Big Breakfast, Ready, Steady, Cook, and Esther - all programmes taking up the literacy theme.

And the year's red and yellow "read me" logo will adorn everything from crisp packets to postmarks by September.

The National Year of Reading (NYR) is seen as an integral part of the Government's Pounds 59m national literacy strategy - and a call to arms to ordinary people.

The aim is ambitious - to kick-start a cultural shift in national attitudes towards reading, by highlighting, disseminating and promoting local and national partnerships and initiatives.

"We have always been very clear that there needs to be a focused attempt to change cultural attitudes and the way people think about literacy in our society," said Michael Barber, head of the Government's school standards and effectiveness unit.

"We are going to try and enlist everybody, from whatever walk of life, in our campaign.

"It is the Government's job to raise standards of literacy in schools. What the National Year of Reading is about is changing the culture. That is something government can take a part in but cannot do on its own. We need partners."

Supermarket phonics, 11 Labour's literacy strategy, 21 Comments and ideas for NYR should be sent to the NYR Team, National Literacy Trust, Swire House, 59 Buckingham Gate, London SW1E 6AJ. For free copies of the NYR guide - also available in Braille, audio tape, Bengali, Gujurati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu - phone 0845 60 222 60.

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