WHEN pupils were set a reading challenge at a South Tyneside school, staff expected them to get through a handful of books each.
But eight-year-old bookworm Ben Whitehead stunned them all by storming through more than 70 titles in six weeks – about a book and a half a day!
The Year 4 St Oswald’s RC Primary School pupil devoured the works of his favourite authors, David Walliams and Enid Blyton, before moving on to the Tracey Beaker series by Jacqueline Wilson and dozens of others.
“I was at the library every day,” said Ben, who still found time to play outside with his friends and brush up on his spelling in between marathon reading sessions.
Nadia McSheffrey, English co-ordinator at the school in Nash Avenue, Whiteleas, South Shields, asked pupils to take part in the national Storylab summer reading challenge, run by The Reading Agency and supported by South Tyneside Libraries, last year.
She said: “Research shows there is a dip in primary children’s reading over the six-week break, so to try and avoid this happening, we asked the children to read at least six books, but if they could read more, that would be fantastic.
“We recently received the forms back from parents/carers to confirm the amount of books read and we gave first, second and third prizes to the children who had read the most books.
“We were expecting at the most around 15-20 books to have been read by the winner, but, to our amazement and excitement, he had read over 70 books!”
Ben, who says he reads for 30 minutes every night and more at weekends, received a £20 WHSmith voucher for his efforts, along with a medal and certificate.
He said: “I have always loved books. My mam’s got a Kindle, so she reads lots of books on that. We like to read together.”
Education watchdog Ofsted has said schools need to encourage pupils to read for fun to achieve outstanding standards in English.
Mrs McSheffrey added: “At St Oswald’s we always give a high priority to reading for pleasure.
“It is not just for lesson times and they can transfer their skills outside the classroom.”
The school has just created a library area, full of books chosen by pupils.
Year 6 pupils act as librarians and it is also home to a Book Buddy club, where older children read to the younger ones at lunchtimes.
Mrs McSheffrey said: “The children have thoroughly enjoyed access to this fantastic reading resource.”