PARENTS are being encouraged to use spooky stories, witches, wizards, ghosts and ghouls to get children excited about reading.

The National Literacy Trust, which is running the Oxford Mail -backed Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, says Halloween is the perfect chance to get youngsters reading.

Campaign manager Clare Bolton said: “Children find creepy Halloween characters absolutely fascinating. They can be just the thing to tempt a reluctant reader into sitting down and listening to a spooky story, or picking up a book themselves.

“There are some brilliant books featuring these characters, and they don’t all have to be scary.

“There are Halloween-themed books that are perfect even for babies and toddlers.”

She suggested This is My Monster by Sam Taplin and Matsumi Furukawa for the youngest children, which has button at the end of every page to make the monsters roar.

For pre-schoolers, Ms Bolton’s suggestion is Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s Room on the Broom.

She said: “This book has a lovely message about friendships and helping others, wrapped up in a comic poem that is really fun to read aloud.”

Other Halloween themed characters include Meg and Mog and Winnie the Witch – illustrated by Oxford’s Korky Paul – while Neil Gaiman’s Coraline, made into a film, is targeted at older children.

Ms Bolton said: “It’s a funny, creepy spine-chiller, a modern take on a conventional fairy story which will capture the imaginations of readers from nine upwards.”

Tommy Donbavand’s Scream Street series features a street full of spooky characters like Luke Watson, Resus Negative and Cleo Farr for children aged seven and over.

Ms Bolton said trick or treating could also offer an opportunity to get children thinking about books.

She said: “You could use the debate around which costume to dress up in as an opportunity to talk through relevant story book characters your children have read about.

“My nephew is choosing a Harry Potter outfit this year, while my three-year-old son will be going as nursery rhyme character Incy Wincy Spider.”

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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.