Preston schoolchildren are encouraged to discover the joy of books in reading scheme partnered by Deepdale Shopping Park and the Natural Literacy Trust

More than 280 Preston schoolchildren have taken part in storytelling sessions to help them fall in love with reading.

The events, organised by Deepdale Shopping Park, involved children hearing stories from professional storyteller John Hughes.

They were part of the Young Readers Programme, an award-winning initiative sponsored by Deepdale Shopping Park’s co-owner British Land and run in partnership with the National Literacy Trust.

The programme is designed to encourage children to read outside of the classroom.

Preston St Matthews Church of England Primary School pupils Sienna, Pilray, Hamzah, Owais, Nabiha, and Izzah with their new books from the Young Reader’s Programme event

Pupils from Deepdale Community Primary School, Preston St Matthews Church of England Primary Academy and Fishwick Primary School also learnt how to choose books they will enjoy.

They were able to take home a book of their choice.

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Since the programme began 11 years ago, it has supported more than 2,000 schoolchildren and seen more than 6,100 books donated across the Preston area.

A storytelling session led by author John Hughes in a Young Reader’s Programme event at the Preston St Matthews Church of England Primary School

Russell Hall, centre manager at Deepdale Shopping Park, said: “Supporting local children and their families is so important to us and the Young Readers Programme is an integral part of this.

“We look forward to this brilliant initiative every year and have loved seeing children from across our community enjoy their storytelling sessions.”

Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, said: “Reading for enjoyment is proven to support mental wellbeing, literacy skills, and future success.

"Encouraging children to enjoy reading from a young age can have a measurable impact on the rest of their lives.”

Research by the National Literacy Trust indicates that almost 6% of children in the UK do not own a book, which equates to almost 415,000 children across the country.