Hundreds of Bradford youngsters join to celebrate the joys of reading in the Summer Reading Challenge awards ceremony at St George's Hall

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: THRILLED: Youngsters from across the city enjoyed a fabulous awards night to mark the success of this year’s summer reading project. Pictures by Anthony Macmillan THRILLED: Youngsters from across the city enjoyed a fabulous awards night to mark the success of this year’s summer reading project. Pictures by Anthony Macmillan

A summer of reading has reaped rewards for more than 300 youngsters across the district who got their hands on Olympic-style medals and certificates last night during a special celebration event.

It follows the most successful year of the Summer Reading Challenge in Bradford which took on the theme of the Cultural Olympiad and saw 40 per cent more pupils taking part in the challenge than in 2011.

The event was held at St George’s Hall and included a performance by Jeremy Strong, children’s author and the spokesman for the new national schools reading competition Read For My School.

Andrew Newbound, award-winning advertising copywriter turned children’s novelist, was also there to engage with the pupils and entertain them with his stories.

The Summer Reading Challenge has been running for several years in the district’s public libraries. This year saw an even closer partnership between the library service and primary schools via the Bradford Primary Improvement Partnership and Bradford Achievement Service.

It is a national library scheme to encourage primary-aged children to continue to read throughout the summer holidays. The theme this year was Story Lab to coincide with the summer Olympics coming to London and celebrated reading and stories from around the world.

All the young people who joined the scheme received a folder in which to record details of books they read during the summer. They were also given incentives to collect along the way, including stickers, bookmarks, wristbands and key rings. The challenge was also supported by more than 160 free events in libraries across the district throughout July and August.

At the celebration event, which was opened by Bradford Council chief executive Tony Reeves and supported by Kath Tunstall, the authority’s strategic director of children’s services, pupils from each school cluster were entered into a draw to win a Kindle e-reader and every pupil who attended the event could take part in a raffle for an iPad.

Schools with more than 25 or more pupils taking part in the challenge were also entered into a prize draw for book vouchers. The event was also filmed to promote the challenge in schools and children’s centres next summer.

Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, the Council’s executive member responsible for culture, said: “I am delighted to see the huge increase this year in children and young people taking part in the Summer Reading Challenge. I know library staff work hard on to encourage the enjoyment of reading among our young people so congratulations to them for organising and running the events during the summer holidays which have led to such a tremendous achievement.”

Councillor Ralph Berry, the authority’s executive member for children’s services, said: “I am really pleased an event like this is being planned to celebrate the success of this year’s Summer Reading Challenge. The challenge will have helped these pupils improve their reading which will have a positive effect on their overall education.”

The success of the scheme comes as it was revealed on Tuesday that Bradford has the second worst performing secondary schools in the country according to Ofsted judgements.

Figures published by the school’s inspector suggest 71 per cent of secondary school students in Bradford are attending schools deemed “not good enough” by the Government. Five per cent were labelled “inadequate” and the remaining 66 per cent were “satisfactory”.

Meanwhile a scheme to encourage pre-school children to enjoy books from an early age will involve a number of events next month. Bookstart Bear will tour the district to encourage parents and carers to share books with their youngsters over the winter.

The character will meet children during his winter-themed tour of Council libraries, which will also include storytelling and activities.

Library staff will read stories and there will be a Christmas tree to decorate. Information will also be available about how parents can join the library with their children.

Bookstart Bear will visit the following locations: Monday, December 10, Holme Wood Library at 10.30am and Baildon Methodist Toddler Group at 2pm; Tuesday, December 11, Farcliffe and Lilycroft Children’s Centre at 1.30pm; Wednesday, December 12, St James’ Toddler Group, Thornton, at 9.30am, and Sanghat Centre Health Clinic, Keighley, at 1.30pm; Thursday, December 13, Kirkgate Centre, stories at 11am, 1pm, and 2pm; Friday, December 14, Wyke Library at 10am, and Menston / Burley Children’s Centre at 1.45pm; Saturday, December 15, Oastler Centre with stories at 11am, 1pm, and 2pm.

Coun Hinchcliffe added: “We want children to develop a lifelong love of books and reading and Bookstart is a great way for us to encourage this in a fun and enjoyable environment.

“I hope the tour will encourage even more pre-school children to become members of their local library.”

Bookstart is the national book gifting programme that encourages all parents and carers to enjoy books with children from as early an age as possible.

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