MYTHICAL creatures and lost legends are helping to tackle the "literacy dip" of the school summer holiday.
A Summer Reading Challenge running at libraries throughout the district is aimed at getting children to keep reading, away from the classroom. The challenge is for youngsters aged four to 12 to read six books by the end of the school holiday.
The challenge was launched at City Library by 'Eirenne', the Greek Goddess of Peace, who is leading storytelling sessions at libraries throughout the summer.
The theme of the Summer Reading Challenge - part of a national library initiative, delivered in partnership with the Reading Agency - is Myths and Legends. Every child who joins the 'Mythical Maze' receives a fold-out poster on which to record details of books they read during the summer. There are also stickers, bookmarks, fridge magnets, wristbands, and a puzzle game to collect, and every child who reads at least six books will receive a certificate and medal.
Christinea Donnelly, development officer for young people at Bradford Libraries, said the scheme, now in its 10th year, has shown improvements in children's literacy levels.
"It improves children’s reading skills and range, confidence and motivation, and it helps prevent the summer holiday dip in literacy skills," she says. "It gives children a great chance to have fun with books and to feel rewarded for reading. It's about children enjoying what they read, finding out more about books and knowing how to find the books they're interested in reading.
"The overall aim is to get children reading - books, comics, picture books or graphic novels. As long as they're reading something, it all counts, and it helps them to return to school in September with maintained or improved reading skills. In 2012 Bradford libraries were up by 40per cent participation in the Summer Reading Challenge and last year up again by 34per cent.
"We work closely with schools and this year we're part of the Literacy Hub, linked to the National Literacy Trust. Bradford schools have really taken it on board and promoted the challenge. We're offering schools with the highest percentage of participants a free author event."
Christinea said the Myths and Legends theme combines reading with fun.
"Eirenne's 'turbulent tales' are very visual; she wears a purple goddess robe and brings lots of masks and props. The children love her, I've received lots of letters from them."
Bradford Libraries have more than 160 Greek myth-themed activities on this summer, with Gorgons, monsters, heroes and magic. ZooLab’s Mythical Maze Workshop offers youngsters chance to discover myths and legends surrounding creepy creatures.
"Every child who completes the reading challenge will receive an award and certificate, presented at the libraries. There's a sense of achievement for the children when they go back to school," adds Christinea.
Higher literacy skills are linked to better educational and employment prospects, as well as emotional development, self-esteem and confidence. But according to Save the Children, large numbers of children are failing to reach literacy targets at primary school.
The charity's Too Young To Fail report said that if children are behind with reading by the age of seven they have just over a one-in-five chance of going on to achieve a grade C in English at GCSE.
Figures released by children's literacy charity Beanstalk, which provides volunteer reading helpers in schools, reveal that in 2012 one in six children left primary school in Bradford unable to read to the required standard.
The charity said poor literacy early on in a child's education can have serious consequences in later life.
"It is a tragedy that after seven years of primary education, as many as one-in-six children leav-ing primary school are unable to read to the required standard, " said chief executive Sue Porto.
"The consequences of this in later life can be horrendous, with 60 per cent of the prison population having difficulty with basic literacy."
* Eirenne the Storyteller will be at the following libraries: Manningham tomorrow from 2.30pm - 3.30pm; Keighley on Wednesday from 11am to 12noon and Shipley from 2pm - 3pm; Burley on Thursday from 11am to 12noon and City Library on Saturday from 11am to 12noon.
* For more information visit bradford.gov.uk/libraries