THE importance of parents and children reading to each other is being highlighted by a new story-telling scheme.

Hundreds of children from Oxford are being given a taste for reading – and listening to – stories from a young age under the Storybird scheme, organised by the Oxford-based Story Museum.

Dr Chris Smith, from the museum, said: “The results of the project have exceeded my expectations, showing how the simple act of sharing stories together can provide a way of supporting and empowering group members in so many different ways.”

He said telling stories to your children could create special moments in family life, giving families a chance to talk and listen to each other, helping them learn to enjoy each other’s company and play together.

It was also, he said, a good opportunity for parents for whom English was a second language to work on their own language skills.

A high-profile fan of reading aloud to your children is children’s author JK Rowling, who wrote the best-selling Harry Potter books.

She once said: “The best way to get children excited about reading is to read to them from the beginning of their lives.”

So far, schools in Oxford running the Storybird scheme, which brings parents into school each week and helps develop enthusiasm for reading among both generations, include Pegasus and Orchard Meadow primary schools in Blackbird Leys, and SS Mary and John Primary School in East Oxford.

Pegasus headteacher Jill Hudson said: “It’s brilliant. It brings families closer together and I believe doing something with your children is magic.

“It’s not easy to get up and tell a story in front of other people but it’s fabulous to do. It has been profoundly moving and joyful.”

Harvey Arundell-Walker, seven, told his parents the story The Noisy House at the Pegasus Storybird ‘graduation’ ceremony on Tuesday.

The Story Museum plans to extend the scheme to Rose Hill and St John Fisher primary schools.

The National Literacy Trust also campaigns for parents to start reading to children as soon as possible, and offers tips on how to get started, such as choosing books well and practising the stories first.