Read all about it: The array of celebrities and young literature lovers in Trafalgar Square tells its own story
Sunday 14 July 2013
What do Lily Cole, Rupert Everett and Peppa Pig have in common? Apart, obviously, from their striking good looks. Answer: they are passionate about reading, and about encouraging children to read. To prove their point, they joined a host of other actors and writers at yesterday's inaugural Get Reading event, a day-long festival in Trafalgar Square in London.
The idea was spawned by a literacy campaign started by the London Evening Standard two years ago. When journalists on that newspaper learned that one in four 11-year-olds were unable to read and write, they launched a campaign to change things. Yesterday's event, held on the hottest day of the year, was a culmination of the extraordinary feats they have achieved. Thanks to the generosity of their readers, £1m has been raised for the literacy charity Beanstalk, and 600 volunteers now read to 2,000 children at 290 schools.
For many children, books play no part in their lives. You only had to look at the row of transfixed faces staring up at Rupert Everett as he read from Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince to see how affecting a good story can be. "There's something about the written word that is absolutely magical for the development of the human brain," he said afterwards. "If reading is phased out completely, we're going to become blobs, if we aren't already. Looking back on my own life, the more I read, the more textured and thorough I felt as a person. So to start off reading early is an amazing thing."
Lily Cole, a model who got a double first from Cambridge in art history, read from Winnie-the-Pooh, while Peppa Pig, star of the Channel 5 children's show, read from her own books. Inside the oversized pig costume is 11-year-old Harley Bird, the youngest ever recipient of a Bafta. She will star in the film adaptation of Meg Rosoff's novel How I Live Now, which is out in October. Speaking as Peppa Pig afterwards, she said: "People should like reading because it's all about stories, and when you read you can get lots of information in your brain."
Cole said she almost chose to read from the Harry Potter books, because they played such an important part in her childhood. But her favourite author is the Russian Vladimir Nabokov, in particular his novel Ada or Ardor, which she reads "perpetually". Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the London Evening Standard and The Independent on Sunday, took to the stage later in the afternoon. He chose to co-read Roald Dahl's The Twits with the actress Barbara Windsor. "As a bearded man, it seemed an appropriate choice," he quipped.
'At times I thought he was me'film
Review: One Direction, Fourmusic
Review: The World of Ice and Firebooks
Film More romcom than S&M
Review: The Imitation Gamefilm
Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars
TVNetflix gets cryptic
TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth
Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Not suppost to cry': 9-year-old lists the worst things about being a boy
- 2 To help fuel their propaganda machine against the poor, our government has now decided to redefine the word 'welfare'
- 3 Anti-gay hate preacher accidentally tweets 4,000 followers cartoon clip of him 'confessing' to be a 'homosexual sodomite'
- 4 Woman opens professional cuddling shop – gets 10,000 customers in first week
- 5 Grayson Perry: London needs affordable housing because 'rich people don't create culture'
Lee Evans announces his retirement from comedy on The Jonathan Ross Show
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars
Iggy Azalea responds to Eminem rape lyrics: 'I'm bored of old men threatening young women'
Angelina Jolie confirms retirement from acting: 'I've never been comfortable on-screen'
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking leaked footage from Lana Del Rey rape video
Rochester by-election: Ukip gains second MP as Tory defector Mark Reckless holds seat
'Beast of Bolsover' Dennis Skinner takes Ukip MP Mark Reckless to task moments after he is sworn in
Rochester by-election: Labour MP Emily Thornberry resigns after posting white van and England flags tweet
France 'blocks' Russian sailors from boarding a warship
Revealed: How the world gets rich – from privatising British public services
Myleene Klass: Ed Miliband 'strikes back' by comparing UK's need for Labour's mansion tax to Hear'Say track