Reading is not just important – it’s also great fun. That’s the lesson Carrie Norman wants all the children in her school to learn.
And it’s the message that lies at the heart of Wisbech Reads, a five-year project that will be officially launched at a two-day literary festival in Wisbech Park on July 10-11.
Mrs Norman is the principal of Peckover primary school and a member of the core group behind the scheme, which has come out of a visit to Brooke Weston Trust schools by the Regional Schools Commissioner. It aims to inspire a love of reading and books among people of all ages.
“From a very young age our children absolutely love books,” says Mrs Norman. “And they enjoy sharing them. They like to follow an author they really enjoy.
“Roald Dahl and David Walliams are among their favourites – they read one and then they want to read the next and the next. It’s a really powerful way of getting them into it. But it doesn’t have to be books – it could be comics or the children’s newspaper First News.”
She adds: ”It’s absolutely vital to get parents involved. We have ‘reading cafes’ when we open up the school for two hours. The parents come in, have coffee and cake and go in to class to read with the children. They are hugely popular.”
The core group behind Wisbech Reads also includes Nicola Parker, head teacher at Orchards school, Louise Aldridge, Wisbech’s children’s librarian, and Patricia Davies, director of primary provision at the Brooke Weston Trust. They aim to bring together the whole community in support of the project.
Their initial aims include compiling a directory of all the relevant services supporting literacy. “There are a lot of good things going on that people don’t know about. We need to signpost people to them,” says Mrs Norman.
They are also keen to promote the town’s library. One of the latest ventures is taking children there and getting parents to collect them: “One measure of the scheme’s success will be how many people become library members.”
Patricia Davies says: “The statistics show that poor literacy levels are a real problem in this area. Children who start school a year or 18 months behind have to play catch up for the rest of their lives. So it’s really important that we all come together to tackle it.”
So what is Mrs Norman’s key message? “Love books – reading makes you cleverer.” And Kate Kendal, her vice-principal, agrees: “Books open your door to the world.”