Children absorbed by readathon tales

Oxford Mail: Ron Heapy reads to the children during the readathon Ron Heapy reads to the children during the readathon

CHILDREN of all ages gathered spellbound at Oxford Central Library for a six-hour readathon.

The event was organised by the charity Assisted Reading for Children, a Bicester-based charity which supports more than 200 volunteers across Oxfordshire who read with youngsters in school.

The aim of the event was to raise the profile of reading and to recruit more volunteers to join the charity.

Among those settling themselves in a comfy chair with a good book was Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood.

After reading several books, including works by Jill Murphy and classic lift-the-flap book Dear Zoo, Miss Blackwood told the Oxford Mail: “This is probably the most fun I will have all week.”

She also expressed her enthusiasm for the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, part of which will involve volunteers reading with children in schools.

Henley MP John Howell, Oxfordshire County Council chief executive Joanna Simons and council leader Ian Hudspeth all took a turn.

The charity’s patron, Shen Roddie, and performance poet John Foster were also involved in the event last week. There were also a number of existing volunteers taking part.

They included East Oxford resident Ron Heapy, 77, who has been volunteering with the charity at East Oxford Primary School for the last 12 years.

Mr Heapy said: “It was good, some of the kids were quite lively.”

Mr Heapy, who is now retired, used to work in publishing working on children’s books at Oxford University Press.

He said: “It’s nice to see kids reading and enjoying it. There were a lot of us taking part and the kids seemed to like it.”

The event was organised by mum and ARCh volunteer Vikki Evans.

She said: “The children were just entranced by the authors, some of them were just as animated and brilliant to listen to.

“We had one little boy who was there all day and just didn’t want to go home.”

At least one person has come forward and said they want to join as a volunteer as a result of taking part, and a number of others expressed an interest.

The charity works with more than 700 children in around 100 county primary schools, and has a number of schools on its waiting list seeking more volunteers.

Winnie the Witch illustrator Korky Paul has created a sketch of his character reading an ARCh book, which is being auctioned for the charity.

It can be viewed at the offices in Market Square, Bicester, from Monday, November 5.

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