London Mayor, Boris Johnson, launches reading festival


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The Independent Culture

London's Trafalgar Square is to play host to a giant reading festival for families to enjoy this summer.

The free outdoor event will feature famous authors and celebrities reading on stage backed by an enormous interactive screen, with thousands of children following along.

The Get Reading festival, set to take place on 13 July, is part of a major literacy campaign being led by the London Evening Standard and has been organised in partnership with the e-reader firm Nook.

Yesterday, Boris Johnson kicked off preparations for the one-day event at a primary school in Battersea, London, alongside Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard and The Independent.

Boris read on a Nook eReader from The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, one of his favourite childhood books, he said. His literary hero, he revealed, is Mr Toad. Surprise surprise. 

The Mayor added: "I would like to see a London where kids are no longer illiterate at age 11. The target must be to stamp out illiteracy of 11-year-olds, and this is where the Standard's literacy campaign has done such pioneering work. Think of the potential - almost one in five kids are leaving primary school unable to read or write, think of what they would go on to achieve, think of the economic benefits that would bring to London if we could turn that round and turn these kids onto reading. I hope as many Londoners as possible can make it to Trafalgar Square for the giant read-a-thon packed full of literacy-boosting activities and famous book lovers.”

Boris was followed by Mr Lebedev, who read from Oscar Wilde's The Selfish Giant.

Mr Lebedev added: “As the enthusiasm of the children this morning shows, reading has opened their lives to the wonderful stories that only books can bring. The Trafalgar Square read-a-thon will be a celebration of all that our literacy campaign has achieved and promises to be fantastic fun!”

Jim Hilt, managing director of Barnes & Noble, owners of Nook, said: “This festival is going to be a celebration of books, creating excitement around our favourite children’s stories. We came to the UK to be a part of the fabric of community by creating affordable access to reading and we believe that this festival will further the campaign.”

St Mary's executive headteacher Jared Brading said: "We will definitely be taking our pupils to the Trafalgar Square festival. It will be a wonderful opportunity to combine reading  with a great day out."

Get London Reading was launched two years ago to help struggling readers and has so far raised £1m, including £500,000 from the Mayor’s Fund for London. The money supports almost 700 reading volunteers trained by the Standard's campaign partners Beanstalk who help more than 2,000 children at hundreds of primary schools across the capital.

Additional details on the Trafalgar Square Get Reading line up - to be held on Saturday 13 July 11am to 5pm - and how the public can register will be revealed shortly.