AT first sight the hi-tech world of the Diamond Light Source may not seem a hotbed of reading.
But scientists and workers at the £300m research centre at Harwell like nothing better than having a good read or even having a go at writing their own literary masterpieces.
Now they are backing the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, stressing the importance of good reading skills for youngsters throughout their lives and careers.
Diamond outreach manager Laura Holland said: “We rely on literacy skills more than we used to. The use of social media and communications is becoming more important in the workplace.
“I took a scientific degree but writing and reading are hugely important to my career. I spend most of my day reading and writing.
“And these days it is so competitive for young people to get a job. A well-written application can make you stand out. But do it badly and, no matter what experience you have, it is going to be disregarded.”
Ms Holland, 29, is mother to three-year-old Jonas and enjoys reading books with him and encouraging him to learn to read as quickly as possible.
“I was a real bookworm when I was little. One of my first memories is sitting reading in a corner without noticing all the other children had gone back into the classroom.
“That love of reading is what I want to encourage in my children.”
Ms Holland is involved in promoting the Light Reading scheme for 12 to 16-year-olds in Oxfordshire schools, which involves teenagers writing short stories inspired by science.
She said: “It shows how writing and creativity are not just confined to English but apply to all sorts of different subjects. Science is hugely creative.
“You can’t be successful unless you have really good ideas and are able to express yourself.”
Workers at Diamond also have their own book club where they get together in their free time and talk about their favourite publications.
And Diamond recently produced its Light Reading Anthology, a collection of short stories from scientists and individuals across the country.
The organisation is backing the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, which aims to improve reading skills among youngsters after the release of statistics which showed they were underperforming at all levels, particularly at Key Stage 1.
Oxfordshire County Council has set aside more than half a million pounds for the campaign, which is being supported by the Oxford Mail.
Ms Holland said: “The campaign sounds like a great idea. Reading is a skill for life.”
The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign was launched by Oxfordshire County Council, backed by the Oxford Mail, to improve reading standards in the youngest children.
The goals are to:
Improve the proportion of children who reach Level 2B at Key Stage 1 to 86 per cent – a rise of 12 percentage points.
Increase enjoyment of and confidence in reading.
Eighty-one schools across the county, chosen based on Key Stage 1 results over the past three years, are being invited to take part.
The campaign is being run by the National Literacy Trust and will involve:
A reading intervention programme called Project X Code working with Year 2 children in up to 81 county primaries.
Volunteers coming in to schools to read one-to-one with the children involved in the Project X Code programme.
Training and professional development for teachers, teaching assistants, literacy co-ordinators and headteachers.