Page last updated at 09:09 GMT, Thursday, 18 September 2008 10:09 UK

Free poetry for reception pupils

Booktrust aims to get children interested in reading

A charity is giving free poetry books to thousands of reception class pupils in England to inspire a love of reading.

The Booktrust scheme will see 750,000 book packs with a poetry anthology and a story book sent to primary schools.

A survey carried out by Booktrust found a third of children wanted to read more poetry or have more read with them.

Of the 1,051 seven to 14-year-olds polled, 44% said their mother did not enjoy reading poetry with them.

The survey, conducted to mark the distribution of the free book packs, found half of the seven to eight-year-olds liked reading poetry compared with only 31% aged 12 to 14.

In a separate poll of 1,507 parents, nearly a third (31%) said they never read poetry with their children.

The main reasons given were that it was difficult to find poems they would both like (20%) and that they were too busy (11%).

The surveys also found only one in three parents or carers read aloud to children on a daily basis. This was down from 43% in a similar survey in 2006.

Parents said reasons such as having too much else to do (35%), tiredness (30%) and cooking dinner (25%) prevented them from reading with their child.

Mothers were also more likely to read to a child than fathers: 64% were the "chief reader" to children aged four to five.

Books in Year 7

The Booktrust charity is also giving Year 7 pupils (11 and 12-year-olds) in England a free book in a scheme called Booked Up.

These pupils will be given a book from a list of 12 selected titles, which include Read Me and Laugh: A funny poem for every day of the year.

Four and five-year-olds in reception classes will receive a copy of Harry and the Dinosaurs go to School by Ian Whybrow and a special edition of The Puffin Book of Fantastic First Poems, under the Booktime initiative.

Books will also be delivered to children not attending mainstream education, including home educated and looked-after children, children in hospital schools and children's hospices, gypsy, Roma and traveller children, and children in pupil referral units (excluded from mainstream schooling).

The Booktrust schemes are supported by the publisher Pearson and England's Department for Children, Schools and Families.

It is hoped they will be introduced in Wales in the near future.

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