Thursday, 3 May 2012

A life-long love-affair with reading

Back in February I was invited to this building (80 Strand, the former Shell Mex House)...

Along with these people...

To help choose the contents of the 2012 Booktime Book Packs. With views over the Thames like this it was a wonder we got any work done at all!

But - under the chairmanship of Jake Hope - work we did and the fruits of our deliberations are announced today.

Most parents are familiar with Bookstart, which offers free books to children at two key ages before they start school. Since 2006 Booktime - run by the same charity Booktrust along with educational publisher Pearsons - has extended the programme to give a free book pack to every eligible child soon after they first start primary school, along with guidance for parents and carers on shared reading.

All the books are chosen for their potential to promote the pleasure of reading by encouraging families to have fun reading together and are intended to be instantly appealing to children. That's quite a tough ask, as you might expect. So it's an indication of the strength of the children's book market that there were so many strong contenders and selecting just two books to go into the Booktime pack was extremely hard. But tremendous fun!

And I'm sure when the books are distributed later this year both the children who receive them and their parents/carers will find them equally rewarding. One of them's a classic. The Tale of a Naughty Little Rabbit is a playful and funny retelling of Beatrix Potter's original Tale of Peter Rabbit. It's a special anniversary edition to mark 110 years since Frederick Warne first published the original tale. The other book is a  is a lively and entertaining story about the mischief that little monkeys can get up to when they're bored. With simple rhyming text and expressive illustrations, Tim's Din - by Monica Hughes and Bill Ledger - gives children the chance to try telling a fun and simple story themselves.

This year Booktime will be giving away its six millionth book, while Booktrust itself celebrates its twentieth anniversary. And I'm delighted to have played a small part this year in helping them achieve their aim of encouraging children in a life-long love affair with reading.
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