Book bonanza spurs pupils to test success

26th October 2007 at 01:00
The beneficial effects of bombarding young children with books has been amply demonstrated at a school in one of the poorest boroughs in London.

Woodberry Down Community Primary in Finsbury Park, was in serious weaknesses in 2003. By 2005 it was on Ofsted's list of outstanding schools.

Last year, four out of five pupils reached level 4 in English, equalling the national average, although many started nursery communicating by gesture or simple speech and half the pupils do not speak English at home.

Greg Wallace, the headteacher, puts the children's success in English down to synthetic phonics and instilling a love of reading. He said: "There are some experiences in life we can only ever get from books. Books help by opening up all these different worlds to children, giving them inspiration and allowing them to meet people who they would never meet in real life.

"That is what often plants the seeds of change."

The school's book budget is pound;20,000 a year and every classroom has its own library.

The school is taking part in Hackney borough's pound;500,000 Words Unite campaign which aims to inspire all sections of the community to read stimulated by events in schools and libraries.

The campaign is funded by Team Hackney, a partnership between the council and public, private and voluntary groups.

Schools will be given pound;1,000 to spend on books for infants and pound;500 to spend on storytelling for four- and five-year-olds. Schools will be able to give three books a year to children in Years 1, 5 and 7.

Mr Wallace has ordered 500 books to give to pupils at Christmas as the culmination of Year 5's project on the Caribbean.

This week at an event promoting next year's National Year of Reading, Ed Balls, the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said parents should make a 10-minute bedtime story as much a part of their child's routine as brushing their teeth before they go to sleep.

The campaign will focus on instilling a love of reading in pre-schoolchildren, boys, teenagers, looked-after children, ethnic minorities and disabled children.

The director of the National Year of Reading, which is being run jointly by the National Literacy Trust and the Reading Agency, will be Honor Wilson-Fletcher, director of marketing at the Southbank Centre in London. She has also worked in PR and marketing at Waterstone's, Hodder and Penguin.

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