A new community reading service is helping to bring stories to life for pupils and parents at a primary school in South East Northumberland.

Designed to engage children in the concept of ‘reading for pleasure’, the weekly Story Club at Grace Darling C of E Primary School in Newbiggin-by-the-Sea explores different ways to access stories, such as through local libraries and also online.

The popular sessions are hosted by representatives from the Community Reading Partnership, a new initiative which has seen a number of community hubs created within the local area, designed to improve people’s mental health and wellbeing through encouraging them to read.

While Story Club is available exclusively to pupils and parents of pupils who attend the school, the community hubs are open to all and welcome readers of all ages to each session, who come together to talk about reading, discover new books, meet likeminded individuals and find escapism through literature.

Mrs Sharon Cole, Co-Headteacher at Grace Darling C of E Primary School, commented:

“Reading is a huge part of our curriculum at Grace Darling so getting involved with the new Reading Partnership programme within Newbiggin was a great fit for us.

“From the moment that our pupils enter Nursery, we actively encourage interaction with stories and nursery rhymes and it is our ambition that by the time our children leave Year 2, they are all fluent, independent readers.

“Our pupils are all really enjoying their weekly Story Club and it’s wonderful to see so many parents coming along to participate in the sessions too, many of whom are also accessing the community-based Reading Partnership sessions and taking that little bit of time for themselves to focus on their health and wellbeing.”

The Community Reading Partnership was pioneered and continues to be part-funded by Ann Cleeves, best-selling author of the popular detective series, ‘Vera’.

Having delivered a keynote speech at the Regional Public Health England Conference about the therapeutic value of reading and its ability to improve people’s health and wellbeing, Ann joined forces with Local Authorities and Public Health England to get the Community Reading Partnership off the ground – creating 9 new roles for Community Reading Workers within the North East alone.

Jane Sampson and Sarah Carlson are the Community Reading Workers responsible for the sessions hosted around Newbiggin-by-the-Sea. They said:

“It has been wonderful getting to know the staff, pupils and parents at Grace Darling Primary as well as members of the wider community within Newbiggin over the past few weeks and we’re delighted to see already the impact that the sessions are having on people’s confidence and wellbeing.

“Our reader-centred approach is designed to support readers of all ages and abilities to discover new titles which appeal to their interests, and help them to relax and unwind in a safe and welcoming environment.”

For more information about the community reading sessions at The Hive in East Lea and the Arts Centre in Newbiggin, on Front Street and Gibson Street, contact read@northumberland.gov.uk. To find out more about Grace Darling C of E Primary School, visit www.gracedarling.ncea.org.uk.