A RUNAWAY dog which hitched a lift in a delivery van during lockdown has inspired a new story written by an Oxfordshire children’s author.

The dog, Madge, belongs to Chipping Norton reading mentor Julia Huddart, who is one of around 300 ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children) volunteers.

The Bicester-based charity promotes reading in 120 primary schools across the county, with each volunteer working with three children directly.

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Now, local children’s author Tracey Lloyd, who is also a volunteer for the charity and creator of Bubble and Squeak and Other Stories for Two Voices, has turned the story into a duologue between the dog and the delivery driver, as they team up to deliver books, cheese and toilet rolls to households in lockdown.

She said: “Playing the part of the dog, whilst a parent or sibling plays the part of the driver, can give a child a stress-free way to develop reading skills and to have fun at the same time.”

ARCh development manager Jane Rendle added: “We had a letter from Julia saying that her dog had got into a delivery van and the driver found her.

“We thought it would make a great story so we mentioned it to Tracey and she came back to us after a few days with Lockdown Lizzie.

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“Lockdown Lizzie is the latest in our duologues and the beauty of them is they can be downloaded for free and I’m sure that grandparents and family members who are keeping in touch with younger children via Zoom and Facetime will want to take part in the duologues."

Ms Rendle went on: “With so many children stuck at home at the moment, missing friends and getting behind with schoolwork, Lockdown Lizzie is a story they can enjoy and relate to.

“It encourages expressive reading and a bit of acting too.

“Shared reading is one of the best ways to give new or reluctant readers a passion for books.

“We’ve got to make good things out of what is a bad situation.”

The Oxfordshire-based charity has been working on ways to keeps its volunteers involved with children during the lockdown, and is currently looking for volunteers across the county to help more children discover the joys and benefits of reading.

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Ms Rendle, who co-founded ARCh in 2008, said: “It’s a tricky time for us, we’re unsure how many of our volunteers can go back into schools as a third of them are over 70.

“We’re in a recruitment process at the minute and we would encourage people to volunteer with us as it’s a lovely experience and you’re able to put your love of reading to good use.”

ARCh has had to postpone all its workshops and training it had arranged prior to the coronavirus outbreak, however is planning to run additional sessions in the coming months, once it is permitted to do so.

The charity has put a notice on its website which says: "Please be assured that we are staying in regular contact with all our reading helpers, their schools and our supporters during this difficult time.

"Although we have had to postpone all the workshops and training we had arranged, we are planning to run additional sessions in the coming months, once we are permitted to do so."

Lockdown Lizzie is available to download on the ARCh website, together with a range of other shared reading texts to help teachers and parents to turn reluctant readers into book lovers.

For more information email info@archoxfordshire.org.uk