BookBenches launched to celebrate a love of reading

Local schools and community groups have been inspired by comic books, fairy tales and novels to decorate BookBenches across the city of Stoke-on-Trent.

20 benches shaped like open books are going on display at public venues across the city - including one at Keele University - from 12 April until 30 June, as part of the Stoke Reads campaign from the National Literacy Trust, in partnership with Wild in Art.

The Keele Institute for Innovation and Teaching Excellence (KIITE) has sponsored a bench on behalf of St John's Primary School in Keele, who designed and decorated their BookBench with characters from their favourite books.

The BookBench project aims to inspire people to enjoy reading and to raise awareness of the importance of literacy skills. The bench at Keele is one of 20 across the city which have been sponsored by local businesses and institutions, on behalf of local schools, and which will be installed at public venues including World of Wedgwood and the Regent Theatre as part of a BookBench trail.

Many of the venues will host themed activities and events until the end of June, after which the benches will be returned to the schools and community groups that decorated them, where they will become a lasting feature of a library, book corner or outside learning environment.

Dr Yvonne Skipper, Lecturer in Psychology at Keele University, said:

"We know from previous research that reading with children is hugely beneficial to their development. Even 10 minutes reading a day can have a positive impact. It is fantastic to see the BookBenches in Stoke-on-Trent, to encourage even more children to read and share a book with their family and friends."

Local families can discover the benches, inspired by the city’s favourite reads, with a special BookBench trail map, which they can pick up from their local library or any venue taking part in the project. The map can also be downloaded from www.stokereads.org.uk.

Elizabeth McAvan, Headteacher at St John’s Primary School, commented:

“We have been delighted to be part of such a special project which incorporates the enjoyment of reading and art together. Whilst designing and painting our BookBench, the children have been immersed in the world of books and enjoyed spotting their favourite characters come to life as they have appeared on the bench. The whole school feels incredibly proud of the finished piece and we believe it is a fantastic representation of the children’s creativity and enjoyment of a wide range of books.”

The BookBench at Keele is on display in the Chancellor’s Building foyer (near the main reception), from Friday 12 April 2019 to Sunday 30 June 2019, after which it will be returned to the school for their enjoyment. Whilst it is at Keele, several events will take place, including poetry readings and a book exchange.

The BookBench trail was officially opened at a launch event on 9 April. Held at the City Central Library in Hanley, schools, community groups and representatives from local cultural venues gathered together to celebrate the hard work and creativity that has gone into designing and decorating the BookBenches.

Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, said:

“We are so excited to see the finished BookBenches created by talented local schoolchildren and community groups. Our research shows that reading for enjoyment has an important impact on how children do at school, and the amazing BookBench designs demonstrate that Stoke children have a real passion for reading!

We’re encouraging families across the city to visit and enjoy the BookBenches – we hope you have fun discovering the benches and discussing the books which inspired them!”

Ben Reed, Head of Creative Development at Wild in Art said:

“We’re delighted to be working with the National Literacy Trust to bring BookBenches to the city. Every decorated bench tells a special story and, together with a jam-packed calendar of book-themed events and activities, we hope they encourage all generations to pick up a book and get reading.”

For a full list of venues hosting BookBenches and to download a trail map, visit https://literacytrust.org.uk/communities/stoke/trail-map-and-activities/.

For more information about reading with children, Keele University and Stoke Reads have worked together to create a video with helpful hints: https://www.keele.ac.uk/cyp/research/readingwithyourchild/