A GLASGOW author passionate about encouraging young people to love books is to become the city’s first Children’s Reading Champion.

AH Proctor, who writes the Thumble Tumble stories, has started the initiative in a bid to help children, particularly those from lower income backgrounds, access literacy.

“Despite having moved away from Carntyne three decades ago, memories of my childhood came flooding back when I began visiting schools in Glasgow as a guest author and I was shocked at the disparities between children from different economic backgrounds,” says Angela.

“I wasn’t shocked that after 30 years there’s still a huge poverty-linked attainment gap. I was shocked that it seems to have become even wider.”

Angela plans to hold the title for the first year in the hope she can then pass it on to a fellow Scottish author each year as the initiative grows, ultimately rolling out nationally.

Angela Proctor is the author of the Thumble Tumble stories for children. Pic: Colin Mearns

Angela Proctor is the author of the Thumble Tumble stories for children. Pic: Colin Mearns

She explains: “The aim of the Children’s Reading Champion is to reach as many children as possible through an exciting and innovative program providing encouragement and support to help develop a culture of reading right across the city.”

Activities and events, such as author visits and competitions, will be open to all primary aged children in Glasgow City Council schools.

To launch the Children’s Reading Champion Glasgow on Monday (April 26), Angela is looking for a crest design which will represent what the city means to children and show their love of reading.

The entries will be judged by the prestigious Glasgow School of Art. Full competition rules can be found on the Children’s Reading Champion Glasgow Facebook page. The closing date for entries is Friday, May 28.

Angela adds: “There have been numerous reports detailing the link between poverty and lower attainment in literacy and it is widely accepted that reading develops creativity that in turn improves a child’s overall learning ability, providing them with a wider range of further education and employment opportunities as well as improving their physical and mental well-being.

Angela Proctor, who is launching the Childrens Reading Champion Glasgow initiative. Pic: Kirsty Anderson

Angela Proctor, who is launching the Children's Reading Champion Glasgow initiative. Pic: Kirsty Anderson

“Growing up, I was no stranger to “hand me down” shoes or having to borrow a tin of beans for dinner but I had a very happy childhood.

“Both my parents worked hard, with my mum sometimes holding down three jobs at a time, but as they weren’t high earners it was often difficult to make ends meet. We tended to do things that were free, and so I spent most weekends at the park followed by a trip to the library and for me this was life changing.

"Not only did this provide a warm safe environment on rainy days, it is where I went to escape from the concrete steps of my tenement close and where I developed a love of books, especially magical fairytales.”

Julie McElhone, Deputy Head Teacher of Merrylee Primary, said: “The Children’s Reading Champion initiative will capture the imagination of our learners and inspire them to read. Providing the children with opportunities to have their writing celebrated, published and shared with an authentic audience, outside of the school environment, will boost their confidence and motivate them to continue to develop their creative skills.”

Christina MacDonald, Head Teacher of Notre Dame Primary said: “This innovative and interactive program will definitely entice our children and encourage their love for reading and writing. By participating we hope to make a quick start in minimising the impact lockdown may have had on the children’s literacy development. We are very excited to take part.”

READ MORE: 'I started to write and then I didn't feel so sad' - Glasgow author Angela Proctor

Neil Mathers, Chief Executive of Children’s University Scotland said: “The Covid 19 pandemic has put an incredible strain on family life and deepened the inequalities that many children face, causing their learning and wellbeing to suffer. This new initiative will offer children and young people opportunities to take part in fun activities that inspire creativity and build their skills in reading and writing.

“We are delighted to support the aims of the Children’s Reading Champion project in Glasgow by promoting these activities through our Children’s University awards scheme. Children and young people will be able to take part in the initiative and collect credits for participating in the project, unlocking awards as they go. This last year has been one of the most challenging for families across Glasgow and it is fantastic to be involved in a project that gives children and young people something exciting to look forward to and enjoy.”