Adrian Mole is a favourite at William Ellis School. All but one of the 12- and 13-year-old boys interviewed at the north London comprehensive yesterday had read Sue Townsend's diaries at least once - and the remaining boy had seen the film.
"It's brilliant, it's just so funny. He's only a little bit older than us,'' they chorused. Darrel Stadlen, 13, added: "I had all four books in one volume and I read it all in a day because I liked it so much," he said.
Reading is not seen by the boys as a chore but a hobby on a par with watching television. The books they choose tend to relate to their interests and often to have been made into a film. In general, though, they prefer to read the story.
Ilan Shaki, 12, said: "It's in the smallest details like someone picking something up. When you read it you see the picture in your head. It's far better than a film.'' Wingyit Lung, 13, agreed. "In the Jurassic Park book they were ripping out parts of Dennis Nedri and that didn't happen in the film. There's more detail in a book and I want that.''
Wingyit, who reckons to read for an hour each night, is challenging his cousin to see who can finish the Michael Crichton sequel The Last World first.
They have not yet started on classics like Dickens and Shakespeare. Adam Guy, 12, did not relish the prospect. "I wouldn't exactly like to read Romeo and Juliet,'' he said. "At the moment I am reading an Agatha Christie. I like books like that, where you get shown a murder but you've got to find out for yourself who's done it.''
Teachers at William Ellis School have devised a "Passport to the World of Literature'' which includes a travelogue for journeys into various lands of literature. Michael Wheale, 45, the head teacher, explained: "At this stage the main thing is to get them reading more, expanding their vocabulary, and expressing themselves. The Passport supports the school reading policy to read different genres of books to make sure the boys are widely read."
Ilan is particularly well- travelled and like his friends, he raves about Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. "It's great if you are a football fan and go to football matches. You realise that everything he writes down is true."