BOOKS have almost become part of the uniform at one school, with pupils having to carry one around with them at all times in a bid to improve literacy.
The ‘book in a bag’ initiative is being run at Charter Academy in Southsea to promote reading on the way into school, in the playground and in between lessons.
Even the school library is feeling the impact of the culture change with more than double the number of books on loan since the scheme’s launch in September compared with the same period a year ago.
Lee Craig’s reading age has shot up from that of a nine-year-old to a 16-year-old in just under two years and he is getting through three books a month.
Lee, 13, said: ‘I read so much more now – I only read at home before but now I’m reading on the bus and in break time.
‘What’s nice is that everyone’s doing it, so you don’t feel like the odd one out.’
He added: ‘My reading has improved and so has my confidence – I used to be very shy but recently I took part in the Shakespeare Schools Festival and played one of Macbeth’s sons.
‘I never thought I’d be able to do something like that.’
At Charter – which has signed up to the News Read All About It campaign – all students take an extra hour of literacy each week and have dedicated hour-long library sessions.
Mark Masters, assistant principal, said: ‘This is about encouraging students to read for pleasure.
‘Reading isn’t “cool” for children nowadays, but in this culture there’s an acceptance that reading is the norm and something that can be enjoyed in the playground, without any kind of mockery.
‘We are seeing children going out the gates, walking and reading.’
Stressing the importance of good literacy, he added: ‘Many studies prove the more children read, the better their life chances are. Through books they accrue vocabulary which makes them more articulate and improves their self confidence. Children come to us with extraordinarily low self-esteem – there’s a lack of belief in what they can achieve, even in the brightest.’
For more on our campaign and this week’s books promotion visit portsmouth.co.uk