Newham Libraries has sent membership cards to more than 38,000 children in a bid to make sure all youngsters enjoy reading.

The plan for all children in Newham to gain access to books was rolled out as lockdown eased and the summer term began.

Deborah Peck, the local authority's library development officer, said: "While every year we promote reading as part of our summer reading challenge, this year, given Covid, we knew we needed to do more.

"With schools and libraries partially closed this past year, we are aware some children lacked access to reading because they have no books at home or limited quiet spaces to read or lack of technology or connectivity.

"Therefore, reading as a refuge during difficult times was sadly not available to all Newham children."

The National Literacy Trust (NLT), a charity which supports young people through literacy, reported that books through lockdown were a real comfort to children in uncertain times.

Each year the NLT undertakes a literacy survey; after reporting that children’s enjoyment of reading had hit a 15-year low, it noted an uplift during lockdown.

Children’s book choices turned to adventure, comedy, fantasy and real-life stories, with many reporting the joy they found in discovering books they had not read before.

Aware some children have faced greater barriers to reading, Newham Libraries put its plans into action and provided every primary school child in the borough with membership.

This meant distributing library cards to 38,500 primary school pupils.

The library did this by expanding its outreach services, undertaking a series of virtual library visits to schools and hosting 25 visits.

All the children were also signed up to a Wild World Heroes summer reading challenge.

Deborah said: "We are seeing a jump so high in borrowing that in some of our libraries, the shelves are near cleared.

"I want to do call out to all young people to keep up the challenge by visiting any Newham library, reading at least six books to gain a certificate that will be given out at school in the autumn term and a medal from your local library."

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