TOP author Alan Gibbons will give the keynote speech at an Oxford conference tomorrow aimed at putting the fun back into reading for children.

Local representatives from the National Union of Teachers, NUT, have organised the event in support of the Oxford Mail-backed Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.

Union committee member Ed Finch said the conference will focus on improving child literacy by making reading more fun for youngsters. “NUT members across the country are delivering fun, engaging lessons that make children want to read,” he said.

“With the support of Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, we’re making a real difference to children’s life chances.” The event – which is also aimed at parents, governors, authors and others – comes as pupils across the country await the results of this year’s SAT exams in September and October.

Oxfordshire County Council children, education and families cabinet member Melinda Tilley predicted young people who took part in the reading campaign would show a substantial improvement in their SAT reading and writing scores this year.

She said: “I think we are going to have some super results. I am really hopeful that we are going to see something special.”

Event organiser Dr Tony Eaude, from Oxford University’s Department of Education, said the conference will give teachers a chance to speak to experts and authors about how to put the joy back into reading. M

r Gibbons, award-winning author of the best-selling Shadow of the Minotaur and a passionate advocate of child literacy, will give the keynote speech, while children’s writer Adrian Townsend will hold a workshop.

The event will also feature workshops and discussions on how reading and storytelling can be used to drive improvements in writing and across the wider curriculum.

Dr Eaude said: “We believe that reading must be enjoyable if children are really going to make the progress that all parents and teachers would like to see.

“This is a great chance for teachers to discuss with authors and experts about how to put the joy back into reading.”

One of the youngsters who has already caught the reading bug is Mr Finch’s son Douglas, six, a pupil at Larkrise Primary School in East Oxford.

Mr Finch reckons part of his love of written word comes from his mother Diane, who used to spend hours reading with Douglas as a young boy. Among his favourite books are funny titles like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid stories and Beano comics, to which he subscribes.

“I don't know what's got me into this craze,” Douglas said.

“Maybe it’s about the humour. “I like to see how the book ends, I like stories and I like to laugh.”

Ms Tilley welcomed the conference and thanked the NUT for its strong support. She said: “Anything that increases the awareness of the importance of reading is brilliant as far as I'm concerned.

“The NUT has been very helpful in backing the campaign and doing so very vociferously.” The conference runs from 9.30am to 4.30pm at Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s.

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