`Delia power' enlisted to aid pupils' reading

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The Independent Online
A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED body set up to encourage reading has bowed to the might of "Delia power" - the massive influence of TV and film over consumers of everything from eggs to education.

The National Year of Reading is setting aside money to give children free showings of films in the hope that having seen the film they will then read the book.

The quango is giving pounds 5,000 to the charity Film Education to screen films to thousands of schoolchildren across the UK during January and February. The move is an implicit acceptance that many children will read a book only if they have seen its screen adaptation.

Films to be screened include Shakespeare in Love, a new film with a script by Tom Stoppard, and an adaptation of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. Belfast- based Titanic Town, based on the book by Mary Costello and starring Julie Walters, will also be shown.

A fourth free film will not be based on a book at all - the new Hollywood movie Pleasantville, starring Joan Allen, is being screened for schoolchildren because it includes scenes set around libraries and reading.

Anita Russell, of Film Education, defended the project yesterday. "Adaptations play a key part in education.

"Research shows that children who are taught literacy using the moving image as well as written text perform at one-and-a-half National Curriculum levels higher than those who rely on teacher input and the written text only."

A statement from the National Year of Reading said: "The muscle of the moving image affects us all. `Delia power' - the new phrase which sums up the power of TV and film over consumers - not only has the power to spark a run on eggs but can increase sales of books by over 300 per cent.

For example, following 1996's Oscar-winning hit film The English Patient, annual sales of Herodotus jumped from 12,000 to 50,000 copies.

The residents of Lyme Regis were besieged by the world's tourists when The French Lieutenant's Woman hit cinemas in 1982. "A large majority of the highest grossing films of all time in the UK are adaptations from books. These include Jurassic Park, Independence Day, Mrs Doubtfire and Babe."

Liz Attenborough, project director for the National Year of Reading, added: "The relationship between books and their subsequent TV or film adaptations show a healthy cross-fertilisation between viewers and readers.

"Many successful adaptations encourage new readers to turn to the original novel, and encourage reading of other books by the same author." Books currently being adapted into films include The Beach by Alex Garland, Dead Babies by Martin Amis, The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, The Spire by William Golding and The Golden Bowl by Henry James.

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