HUNDREDS of children will gather tomorrow for an event inspired by the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.

The Oxfordshire Children’s Readathon was the brainchild of teacher Anne Wattam.

Her school, Dry Sandford Primary, is among those taking part in the campaign, which is backed by the Oxford Mail and aims to boost reading standards and foster a love of books.

Tomorrow the grounds of Milton Manor, near Abingdon, will be transformed to play host to children’s stories and characters.

Authors David Melling and Alan Gibbons, illustrator and author Charlie Sutcliffe and poet John Foster will be among those taking part, giving readings from their books.

Thirty-two story characters will also be in hiding around the grounds and children will be challenged to find them.

Mrs Wattam said: “I read something about Boris Johnson doing a readathon in Trafalgar Square and I thought, with all this momentum going in Oxfordshire wouldn’t it be nice to have a big event here, and it evolved from there.”

Dozens of schools have been invited to take part.

Twelve themed reading zones are being created, each of which relates back to the fictional Microworld featured in the Project X Code books which are being used for the campaign.

The stunning setting has been used to bring stories to life, with a woodland walk becoming the Gruffalo Walk, and a lily pond transforming into the mermaids’ lagoon from Peter Pan.

There will be a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in front of the manor, while the role of modern technology in getting children enthused about reading will be recognised with an interactive zone featuring iPads and e-books.

Mrs Wattam said: “It would be lovely if it could just take on a life of its own and evolve and each year different authors and different events could take place.

“There has been so much interest and so much goodwill locally from businesses and schools.”

Schools across the county have been selling raffle tickets for a range of prizes, with money raised being kept in individual schools to spend on reading resources.

Poet Mr Foster said: “Reading is fun as well as being informative.

“That’s what the readathon is all about, having fun, bringing children and books together and sharing the enjoyment that books can bring.”

There will be competitions including an ‘extreme reading’ photography contest, poetry and character illustration competitions and an award for the best story character costume.

  • The free event runs from 11am to 4pm and will be opened by Didcot and Wantage MP Ed Vaizey and landowner Anthony Mockler-Barrett.