Manchester will be home to a trail of iconic BookBenches across the city next summer, in a drive to get the city reading and improve literacy levels.
As part of Manchester City Council's Read Manchester campaign with the National Literacy Trust, benches shaped like open books will be decorated by local schools and community groups, and displayed in public venues to help spark the city’s interest in reading.
The year-long Read Manchester campaign was launched back in June this year in partnership with the National Literacy Trust, and with the backing of Coronation Street actress Jennie McAlpine who joined youngsters at the launch in Manchester Central Library to see one of the BookBenches for herself.
The announcement comes as research conducted at the start of the campaign shows that two thirds (66.4%) of pupils in Manchester enjoy reading, but also highlights room for improvement - both in reading habits and attitudes.
The survey of over 5,000 eight to 18-year-olds from 60 schools found that just 38.7% of children and young people in Manchester read outside class every day and almost a third (32.8%) only read when they have to.
The report, Children and Young People’s Reading in Manchester in 2016, also shows that there is a particular need to engage boys and older pupils in reading.
Other findings in the report include:
- 60.1% of boys in Manchester enjoy reading, compared to 73.5% of girls
- Fewer young people aged 11 to 14 than those aged 8 to 11 enjoy reading (47.3 vs 69.9%) and read daily outside class (28.3% vs 40.7%)
- Compared with their peers nationally, fewer children and young people in Manchester enjoy reading (66.4% vs 69.9%) and read outside class (38.7% vs 44.8%)
The BookBench project is part of the year-long programme of Read Manchester activities set to encourage more children and adults across the city to enjoy reading and to raise awareness of the power of reading to transform lives.
After being decorated with designs inspired by books, novels, comics and poems, the BookBenches will be displayed in venues throughout Manchester, including leisure and shopping centres as well as in theatres, museums and art galleries. Families will able to follow a trail to discover the benches and take part in a series of fun activities and events around them.
Councillor Sheila Newman, Executive Member for Children's Services, Manchester City Council, said: "Although literacy levels have massively improved in our schools over the last few years, the NLT's survey makes it very clear that reading is something that increasingly our children are not choosing to do outside of the classroom. This is a trend that must be reversed and we're determined to change this.
"Reading is the basis for developing strong literacy skills which, in turn, can transform lives and economic outcomes. We're therefore going to do everything we can through Read Manchester to get not just children, but the whole city, reading again, to give everyone who lives and works in the city the best chance of success now and in the future."
National Literacy Trust research also shows the important impact that reading for pleasure can have on children and young people’s attainment. Pupils who enjoy reading very much are three times more likely to read above the level expected for their age, compared to those who don’t enjoy reading at all.
Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust said: “While it is extremely positive to see that two thirds of Manchester pupils enjoy reading, the survey has highlighted a need to get more children reading outside the classroom and to close the gap between boys’ and girls’ reading.
“Decorating BookBenches with scenes and characters from stories is a great way to inspire children to read more widely, while trails and events around the BookBenches will take reading out of the classroom into the community and encourage families to talk about and enjoy books.”
The BookBench project is delivered in association with creative producers Wild in Art, who will work with schools and local communities to decorate the benches.
Ben Reed, Development Manager at Wild in Art added: “Every decorated BookBench will tell a special story and, together with a summer of book-themed events and activities, we hope they encourage all generations to rekindle their passion for reading.”