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Stories straight from the source;Literacy

Children in 20 London primary schools are getting lessons in book buying at their local Books etc branch as part of the National Literacy Trust's Reading is Fundamental scheme. The sessions are hosted by top children's authors, including Terry Deary of the Horrible Histories series and Nicholas Allan, author of The Queen's Knickers, and the accent is on fun.

Hartley Moorhouse, marketing manager of Books etc, is enthusiastic. "Terry Deary had children re-enacting scenes from history, like the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Nick Allan read to them and got them to cut out paper knickers and hang them on a washing line.

"Each child was given a pound;5 book voucher. They were thrilled."

Some sessions were held at the company's Whiteleys branch in Bayswater, which has a purpose-built semi-circular auditorium where children can sit and listen. Hallfield Juniors School, which is close by, sent all of year 5 - three classes - to separate events.

Headteacher John Bramley was impressed. "We are a highly multicultural school with a high mobility rate and a large number of refugee families," he says. "Literacy is a long slog, but these events are fun and they raise awareness of the pleasure of books."

Four other Books etc branches are also involved - Hammersmith, Croydon, Broadgate and Charing Cross Road in central London.

Sally Champion, of the Reading is Fundamental scheme, says: "We helped to target the scheme in schools which we knew had a commitment to literacy and where the children were less likely to have access to a book culture."

Mr Moorhouse says: "We have had a huge number of thank you letters. And many children are coming back to the shop on a Saturday and bringing their parents.

"In many cases it is the first time the children have been in bookshops and they're gobsmacked to see what's on offer."

Stephen Hoare

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