CHIEF Constable Sara Thornton has backed the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign and spoken of the importance of the skill for children.

She said reading was not only good for relaxation but was also an essential life skill.

Ms Thornton, chief constable of Thames Valley Police, said our reading campaign was a great idea.

The campaign is an Oxfordshire County Council initiative which is being run by the National Literacy Trust and backed by the Oxford Mail.

County Hall has set aside £500,000 to improve children’s literacy and youngsters’ enjoyment and confidence in reading.

It comes after the city was named as the worst in the country in all subjects at Key Stage 1 in 2010.

But in September, the proportion of Oxford schoolchildren achieving expected levels in reading and in writing aged seven showed an improvement.

Ms Thornton said: “Reading is important for relaxation but is also an essential skill for life.

“My younger son has recently read The Hobbit and it was so good to hear about his delight in the story rather than in a video game.”

She added: “I read and read for my job – it is so important to read widely as well as all the letters, emails, circulars and policies that are sent to me.”

Ms Thornton said she used to read to her two boys – now aged 15 and 23 – when they were younger, adding: “We read at bedtime and we read stories – and a bit of poetry when they were young.”

Oxfordshire’s top police officer said she reads for fun regularly and revealed she is a member of a book group which meets monthly to discuss literature.

She said: “I enjoy novels, historical books and political biographies.

“I have just read Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel which won the Booker prize this year – a great novel and so well researched.

“The author tells the story of the downfall of Ann Boleyn through the eyes of Thomas Cromwell – and even though everyone knows that she is to be executed the tension built is very real.”

Asked what her favourite book is, she said: “It has got to be Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte which is the only book that I have read many times.

“I was always fascinated by the life of the Bronte sisters and how three girls who lived in a remote house on the edge of the moors could write with such feeling and insight.

“I have always been enchanted by the romance of the story and managed to overlook the fact that the hero, Mr Rochester, had locked his wife in the attic.”