THE Government's pound;7.8 million investment in school books will have a "colossal impact", Lindsey Fraser, executive director of the Scottish Book Trust, says.
The independent Edinburgh-based organisation that promotes reading in schools said the first pound;2.4 million, announced in February, was now "trickling" into schools. A further pound;5.4 million would give pupils the books most suited to them.
Rhona Arthur, assistant director of the Scottish Library Association, said the cash would be a tremendous boost. "Schools have been starved of resources in recent years and this is a welcome opportunity to build up a bank of books and materials."
Ministers have now thrown down the gauntlet to the SNP which has made a commitment to spend pound;20 per pupil on textbooks and pound;10 on library books, a total of pound;22 million.
Helen Liddell, the Education Minister, launching the Government's investment package last week, said the extra pound;5.4 million from the Scottish Office capital modernisation fund meant the smallest primary receiving pound;900 extra since February and the largest pound;7,000. The largest secondary would have more than pound;19,000 to spend.
Mrs Liddell said the average was pound;3,000 per school and advised local authorities to submit bids by the end of this month. Schools will be given time to select their books and back-up materials.
"Books and computers are not an eitheror for this Government. We need both," Mrs Liddell said in St Anthony's primary in Govan, Glasgow, last week.
Ms Fraser said the investment was "a vast amount compared to what most schools have been spending" and could give Scottish publishers a shot in the arm.
"Books are the basic tool for the curriculum however many computers you have got in your school," she said. "It's about providing books for readers of all kinds and that is one of the things the National Year of Reading has focused on. It's finding the right print for the right child."
Mrs Arthur said schools would never say no to more investment. "Books in primary schools do not last very long," she pointed out.
Ellen Britton, head of St Anthony's, which received a first batch of new books last week, said she would be able to buy up to 150 more books. "Books are still very important and we have got to encourage children to read more than in the past," Ms Britton said.
But it was the Government's New Deal cash that had really changed the picture. Previously, St Anthony's spent around pound;300 a year but this year the figure would increase threefold.
"We had over pound;4,000 in the last financial year over above per capita. It practically doubled per capita. This year we are able to spend on books, materials and computers. We recently bought two iMacs at over pound;800 each," Ms Britton said.
The extra cash would ensure books were replaced and updated as tastes in reading changed. The school will also invest in tapes as children with difficulties reading text find them a useful support.