Celebrities booked to improve literacy;Read Me National Year of Reading
Children's television favourites such as Hollyoaks, Grange Hill and Brookside will carry plotlines promoting reading as fun and "cool" pastimes to dispel the myth among youngsters that only boffins enjoy books.
The plans for the National Year of Reading were outlined last week at the TES-sponsored Education Show in Birmingham by best-selling author Ken Follett.
Mr Follett chaired a Labour task force on literacy when the party was in opposition. He said the year-long event would involve the whole population, from toddlers to prisoners.
A logo bearing the words "Read Me" would appear on newspapers, magazines and comics to foster enjoyment of reading and to "bring reading material to life".
Mr Follett, whose books include Eye of the Needle, Pillars of the Earth and Third Twin said the most powerful way to emphasise the importance of literacy was through role models.
Television and radio presenter Chris Evans is one of the celebrities asked to support the campaign. Television producer Phil Redmond is planning to write scenes in his drama series and soaps to show fathers reading to their sons and the problems faced by illiterate adults.
Earlier, Professor Ted Wragg addressed a packed seminar on the under-achievement of boys, claiming that research had shown that fathers rarely read with their children and preferred to take their sons to the park to kick a ball.
He warned of the consequences of the continuing academic decline of boys, and added that they tended to follow glamorous football teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool because they needed to aspire to success when they felt society had nothing to offer.
Professor Wragg said: "They need the kind of status that people used to enjoy when they had life-long jobs. That is no longer the case."
He urged teachers to spend more time talking to boys to find out their interests and so encourage them to read the type of books they might enjoy.
Mr Follett added that improving the general literacy skills of pupils was vital "to improving their critical imagination. "This will encourage them to seek out more sophisticated material."
But he warned against fostering an "elitist idea of literature" during the National Year of Reading and excluding people, particularly adults, who had low literacy skills.
He said: "We have to emphasise the importance of being able to read without putting down those who have difficulties, such as dyslexics and those with special needs. To many of these people, not being able to read is embarrassing and we have to make them feel less embarrassed.
"We must find ways of encouraging them to learn so that they do not conceal it".
* To mark the National Year of Reading the Arthur Ransome Society is offering schools a subsidised set of the author's Swallows and Amazons series.
More information from Peter Willis at Sylvan Cottage, White House Walk, Farnham, GU9 9AN.