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Wednesday, September 16, 1998 Published at 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK


Year of Reading starts on TV

The government is placing a greater emphasis on literacy

From soap opera to cyberspace, the government is promoting the message that reading is good for you.

The BBC's Mike Baker looks at what lies ahead in the National Year of Reading
Not only good for you, but good for your family, as children, parents, schools and celebrities are all encouraged to participate in the National Year of Reading.

The Education Secretary, David Blunkett, is to start the Year of Reading on Wednesday on the set of EastEnders - one of the soap operas that has agreed to introduce plots supporting the literacy campaign.

David Blunkett: Reading is a "window on the world"
On Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Blunkett said he would be allocating an extra £24m to schools to buy books, as he introduces what the government hopes will be a high-profile campaign to transform the nation's attitude to reading.

Mr Blunkett said he was hoping to change the culture of learning and encourage children - and boys in particular - to read.

[ image: EastEnders is to integrate stories about adult literacy into its plots]
EastEnders is to integrate stories about adult literacy into its plots
By encouraging people to read, "we'll be making a social contribution but we'll also be making an economic contribution," he said.

The National Year of Reading, which will run throughout the current school year, will see a rolling programme of events to promote the written word.

Organisations including book publishers, libraries, the media and local authorities will all work to encourage increased reading among children and adults.

The BBC's Sue Littlemore: Soaps to promote literacy through storylines
Helping to coordinate and publicise regional events is a National Year of Reading Website, which provides a calendar of events and a noticeboard for participants to share their experiences.

Reading in Scotland

In Scotland, Education Minister Helen Liddell will visit a literacy project at Stirling High School which involves local footballers, in an attempt to encourage an interest in books among boys.

[ image: Children will be encouraged to talk about what they read]
Children will be encouraged to talk about what they read
Improving levels of literacy has been a key target for the Department for Education and Employment. The government wants to see 80% of all 11-year-olds reaching the standards expected of their age in English by the year 2002. Around 60% reach that target at the moment.

A compulsory 'literacy hour' has been introduced for primary schools from this term, accompanied by an extra £19m worth of books. Earlier this year an additional £22m was allocated for books in primary and secondary schools.

Reading for pleasure

But ministers say teachers alone cannot raise children's literacy standards to the necessary levels, hence the need for a national campaign to promote reading that involves parents and the wider community.

Among the aims of the National Year of Reading are to encourage more parents to introduce children to books at an early age, more children and young people to read regularly and families to read together.

The literacy campaign also wants more people to read for pleasure and for people to talk about what they read.

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