Captain Corelli’s Mandolin author Louis De Bernieres helps launch campaign to raise new generation of Norfolk readers
An award-winning novelist has helped launch a new campaign to support parents, businesses and voluntary groups in Norfolk in raising a new generation of readers.
The Raising Readers campaign, launched by Norfolk County Council and backed by the Eastern Daily Press, will give parents top tips about how to communicate with their children.
It is also encouraging employers across the county to promote this key skill, which is vital to our economic future, by allowing staff to take small periods of paid leave to go into schools, pre-schools and nurseries to read with children, share books and stories, and boost children's speech and literacy skills.
Louis De Bernieres, whose novel Captain Corelli's Mandolin was made into a Hollywood blockbuster, yesterday read to babies at the Catton, Fiddlewood and Mile Cross Children's Centre to launch the campaign.
The Norfolk resident, who is also chancellor of Norfolk's Children's University, said: 'Reading nurtures the imagination and is a wonderful way to learn all sorts of things quite accidentally.
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'It also helps to make one's speech coherent by displaying the structure of language in its clearest forms.
'Talking and playing with children is how we wrap them into our world and consolidate our bond with them.'
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The Raising Readers campaign aims to close the gap between Norfolk and the rest of the east of England region. In Norfolk, only 67pc of children reach the expected levels in reading by the age of five, compared to a regional average of 73pc.
Advice to help babies includes looking into their eyes, talking to them, waiting for them to respond and responding to the noises they make. These are all things which help to stimulate the brain and strengthen the connections that make learning possible.
Norfolk County Council is giving its staff up to two hours of paid leave a month to read to children, and said more than 200 staff have already shown an interest in the scheme, while dozens of schools have said they would welcome the extra help.
Sheila Lock, interim director of children's services, said: 'If children arrive at school unable to communicate and socialise with other children, they will struggle to catch up, so we have to get things right early.
'Raising readers is aimed at getting people talking to children, sharing books and sharing stories. It's simple but we think it will make a difference. We hope know our staff and schools are up for this and we are hoping that other businesses might want to get involved too.'
Nigel Pickover, editor of the EDP and Norwich Evening News, said: 'This is a campaign which could make a huge difference for Norfolk, so we are thrilled to be backing it.'
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