The Northern Children's Book Festival trying to promote love of reading in the North East

  • Julia Barthram reports

A children's book festival is aiming to ignite a love of reading amid figures which show North East adults have some of the lowest literacy levels in the country.

The National Literacy Trust and Read North East is partnering with the Northern Children's Book Festival in a bid to get more youngsters to embrace books and boost literacy levels for the future.

Children's author Ian Brown read his book, Arthur The Tortoise, to pupils at Hill View Infant Academy in Sunderland.

He said: "It's a form of escapism, sometimes through reading you can escape to another world - maybe a happier place, maybe a better place for a little bit. It can also lead to factual books - so there's education to be got.

"If children are encouraged to read whatever, whether it's comic books or picture books, I just think it sets a habit for life, really."

Government figures show that around one in five children in the North East did not achieve the expected standard of reading when they left primary school.

The region has some of the lowest literacy levels in the country, with 17% of the population aged 16 to 65 (about 283,500 people) having literacy levels at or below that expected of a 9 to 11 year old.

Across the country, less than three in 10 children and young people aged between eight and 18 said they read daily in their free time - with the drop in this area most pronounced in the North East.

James Kingett, from the National Literacy Trust, said: "Once the gap is created, it's very difficult to close that gap. If anything, we see that gap widening as children transition into secondary school.

"Children with low literacy levels can find themselves locked out of the job market later on in life. They can find themselves not feeling as fulfilled and able to participate in civic society as perhaps those who have more developed literacy skills."

The Northern Children's Book Festival runs for two weeks, with authors and poets visiting schools across the region.

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