A half-million-pound project to boost literacy by giving children and adults new, attractive books to take home has recruited its first schools.
Reading is Fundamental UK, based on the 30-year-old United States organisation which now puts more than 11 million books a year into deprived households, will launch around a dozen projects in September. More than half will be in primary and secondary schools, but a housing action trust and a centre for homeless young people will also benefit and later schemes will be based at football clubs.
Selected year groups in the schools will be given between three and five new books of their choice throughout the year from a range supplied through RIF's deals with publishers and local bookshops. Tate and Lyle has donated Pounds 500,000 over three years through the National Literacy Trust which appointed former secondary headteacher Roy Blatchford as RIF's UK director. It aims to give reluctant readers a taste for books.
"Possession is nine-tenths of the law when it comes to enthusiasm for reading," said Mr Blatchford. "The success of the US project shows how vast the potential is - if it takes off on the same scale in Britain, that's 2 million books ."
RIF's future focus will include community groups such as playgroups, emphasising parents and children reading together. Writers' visits and book events will run alongside the distribution sessions.
He is now looking for other sources of cash. Recipients of RIF grants have to raise an equivalent amount of money and involve parents and the wider community in distributing books. It is hoped that the projects will be self-financing after three years, following the US model.
RIF is targeting less obviously deprived areas, such as large council estates on the outskirts of relatively prosperous towns. Moulse-coomb junior school in Brighton, which will receive Pounds 1,500 in September, is typical. Around 95 eight to nine-year-olds will be given three new books each.
Headteacher Renee Middleton has set aside cash to match the RIF grant. She is planning a book week for next term and has invited local celebrities to read with the children. Mrs Middleton, who lived in the US when the original RIF was launched, said: "It fits perfectly into what we are already doing to address the high levels of illiteracy in our community - book weeks, the concentration on reading records, the volunteers in school. It is just what we need to get the children motivated."