A TOP children’s author has urged Oxfordshire’s parents and teachers to help youngsters embrace the fun of reading.

Speaking at Oxford’s Town Hall on Saturday, Alan Gibbons said children who are inspired to read because they enjoy it are more likely to do well.

The award-winning author of the best-selling Shadow of the Minotaur and a passionate advocate of child literacy, told teachers: “All of the peer-reviewed evidence indicated that reading for pleasure is the most effective way of introducing children to literacy.

“But readers are all different and they all learn in different ways. We cannot say one modus operandi will work.

“Reading is about empathy, reading is about humanity. The more you read, the more you make yourself human.

“It has got to be accessible. I would rather have Rio Ferdinand as a role model for reading than Michael Gove.

“The best schools I go to are the ones where the library is the first thing you go through but there has got to be quiet there, there has got to be thoughtfulness.”

Mr Gibbons was speaking at the Reading for Pleasure conference organised by the Oxfordshire branch of the National Union of Teachers in support of the Oxford Mail-backed Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.

Tony Eaude, who organised the event, said: “We are concerned that reading for pleasure is not given enough status within schools.

“It is important that reading is a fun activity so it is not just about the mechanics of decoding text.”

In 2010, it was revealed Oxford’s seven-year-olds ranked worst in the country for reading and writing in their Key Stage One tests.

The results prompted Oxfordshire County Council to launch the Oxfordshire Reading campaign in September to improve the reading skills of children. The initiative involves 81 county primary schools.

Natalie Cave, head of English at Larkmead School, Abingdon, said: “It is evident in the way they talk, discuss and debate, that children who read for pleasure do better.

“We have got a big literacy drive at the moment and we are trying to marry up all the basics, but reading for pleasure ignites their imaginations and brings it together.”