THESE youngsters may not be directly part of the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign, but after taking part in a week of reading events for the Our Lady’s Abingdon Reading Festival, they are full of enthusiasm for the written word.

Over the last week, youngsters at the independent school have been meeting authors including former pupils Jo Cotterill and Rebecca Emin.

They also met writers including Christopher Lloyd, Clarissa Dickson Wright, Gillian Cross and Katherine Rundell.

Scientist and writer Mr Lloyd gave interactive talks on the history of the Earth and showed off his giant, eight-metre-long wallbook.

Backing the reading campaign, which is a drive for improvement in reading levels in 81 state primary schools, he said: “Reading puts you in touch with so many different imaginations. It connects us with the whole universe of human psychology.

“Without reading, the world would be a lonelier place and people less well informed.”

Pupil Archie van Dijk, 14, from Toot Baldon, said he was interested in Mr Lloyd’s perspective on how the world evolved.

He said: “His wallbook is really clever. It gives us pictures across history.”

And George Ingram, 15, from Farmoor, said: “Chris Lloyd was very entertaining and opened my eyes to the Earth’s history.”

Viki Hurrull, 14 from Kennington, said she was a “keen reader of fiction”.

Issy Ashby-Crane, 14, from East Lockinge, said: “I like reading make-believe books and escape from reality.

“I also like reading about someone else’s life.”

The school’s librarian, Barbara Hickford, reiterated the importance of reading in children’s development.

She said: “Reading can take anyone into other worlds, real or fictional, to unlock new experiences.

“The joy of inviting writers into school is that it emphasises that reading is important and creates excitement among students and staff.”

And school principal Stephen Oliver added: “I still remember the moment I learned to read fluently as one of the most exciting of my life.

“It opened up a world that became important to me and has remained important ever since, eventually leading to my publishing a novel of my own.”

Part of the reading campaign’s goal is to encourage a life-long love of reading.

Mrs Hickford said: “At Our Lady’s Abingdon I use the analogy of eating five fruit and veg a day, and recommend a minimum of 20 minutes’ reading every day.

“Once you’re hooked on reading, you can never say you’re bored.”