More than 370 school children across three schools in Fareham, Hampshire have taken part in a celebratory ‘booknic’ organised by Whiteley shopping centre in partnership with the National Literacy Trust.
The ‘booknic’ involved children enjoying a picnic and a book while also taking part in a range of fun reading-themed activities.
Schoolchildren from St John’s Gosport Church of England VA Primary School, Holbrook Primary School and Bedenham Primary School took part in the event, with each child also able to take a book of their choice home.
The ‘booknic’ was part of the Young Readers Programme, an award-winning initiative sponsored by Whiteley shopping centre co-owner British Land and run in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, designed to encourage children to read outside of the classroom.
The initiative also gave the schools access to virtual interactive storytelling sessions and a literary quiz hosted by the Whiteley team.
British Land and the National Literacy Trust celebrates its 10th year in partnership this year. Since the programme launched in Rotherhithe, it has supported more than 1,350 schoolchildren and seen more than 4,000 books donated across the city.
Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that children who own their own books are six times more likely to read above the level expected for their age and three times more likely to enjoy reading.
Over the past year Whiteley has also gifted 550 books to local food banks, charities and community organisations to help provide children in under privileged areas access to books during the pandemic.
Mia Gordon, centre director at Whiteley, said: “Supporting our community is so important to us and the Young Readers Programme plays a massive part in that. It’s a brilliant initiative which we look forward to every year and it’s great to see the children celebrating at our booknic event.
“Thanks also needs to go to the National Literacy Trust for their hard work on this event and over the years. They’ve helped us to ensure that the additional support and books go to those who need them most.”
Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Encouraging children to develop a love of reading from a young age can have a tangible impact on their literacy skills, mental wellbeing and futures. Yet hundreds of thousands of children across the UK are missing out on these benefits simply because they don’t have a book of their own to read at home.
“The Young Readers Programme, with support from British Land, tackles this and we’d like to thank them for all their support over the years.”