A new scheme aims to show children that books are for pleasure, not just work. Helen Ward reports.
Whether it is Heat magazine or Hamlet, reading is fun.
That is the message of a pound;200,000 Government-backed project which aims to get 1,000 primary schools a year to swap tips on how to show children that reading for pleasure is exciting.
Amelia Foster, manager of the Reading Connects scheme, said: "We want to make reading accessible and acceptable - whether it is newspapers, comics or the internet. Children should be free to read what they want, because reading is not always seen as cool."
England's 10-year-olds are the third best at reading in the world, but twice as likely to dislike doing it compared with children from other countries, the Progress in International Reading literacy study found last year.
This week, a survey of 1,000 seven to 14-year-olds revealed that almost half of Britain's children do not read any books outside school. The study, for the Prince of Wales Arts and Kids Foundation, also found that children's two least favourite activities were writing poems and stories.
Reading Connects, run by the National Literacy Trust, is based around a website where schools can swap ideas, case studies and get in touch. A booklet helps schools to compare what they are doing. Ideas include library makeovers, books for loan near lunch queues and raffle tickets with prizes for pupils "caught reading".
Miss Foster said: "We're trying to show how easy it is to promote reading.
Staff could put books on their desk to show they are readers, members of the community could give an assembly on what they read and why, and story tapes could be played during lunch."
The scheme has run in secondary schools since 2002 and offers ideas to promote reading, case studies, funding advice and in-service training. It was launched to combat a drop-off in reading among teenagers but is being extended to primary schools to promote reading for pleasure among younger children.
The project is backed by Bernard Ashley, author of Little Soldier and The Trouble with Donovan Croft.
He said: "If children see a film, they don't have to write an essay about it. If they play a computer game, they don't have to design a new cover for it afterwards. But children sweat over books, using them for comprehension exercises, to learn grammar and English usage. They have to do all these things with books beyond just enjoying them."
HOW DOES YOUR SCHOOL RATE?
* At home, our pupils are reading: a) the instructions to the latest computer game;
b) some school books;
c) a range of comics, stories and non-fiction including recommendations from their parents and teachers.
* The schoolclassroom library:
a) has a funny smell and tatty, sorry, well-loved books;
b) has clear labels and includes up-to-date comics;
c) looks as professional as a bookshop and gets pupils involved.
* Discussing ideas to promote reading with other schools is:
a) something we keep meaning to get round to;
c) essential to the regular reading events we host.
Mostly As - to you reading is a chore, but then you probably will not have got this far.
Mostly Bs - no doubting your proficiency, but you need to inspire.
Mostly Cs - not only a bestseller, but sparky as well.