Pupils in Hastings and St Leonards are being encouraged to pick up a book as part of a campaign that launched in the town with 150 children aboard a themed bus, a performance poet, inspirational speakers and free books.

Get Reading Hastings launched on Friday January 25 thanks to a partnership between the National Literacy Trust and the Department for Education’s Opportunity Area in Hastings which places education at the heart of overcoming obstacles to social mobility.

Get Hastings Reading is a new initiative to inspire children and young people to read for pleasure and gain the confidence they need to make the most of every opportunity. The campaign began with a host of literacy events across the town, ranging from a book-themed bus tour to exciting assemblies in 14 local schools, while every single school in Hastings received a free bundle of 25 books for their school library.

A book-themed bus tour visited 150 children in Years 5 and 6 from five local primary schools across the area. The children – who come from Robsack Wood Community Primary Academy, Hollington Primary Academy, Little Ridge Primary Academy, Ore Village Primary Academy, and The Baird Primary Academy – were invited on board and treated to performances from local poet Lucas Howard. Lucas performed three of his own pieces, and the children were then excited to take part in a writing exercise to create their own poem or rap. Each child was gifted a new book, donated by Penguin Random House UK, a Get HastingsReading Bookmark, and a Hastings 100 Reads entry card to take home.

One pupil from Robsack Wood Community Primary Academy announced:

“That was brilliant – he made writing fun.”

The teachers who accompanied the children were equally enthusiastic. A teacher from Ore Village Primary Academy commented:

“A brilliant idea. So good to see the children excited about reading, they don’t have enough books in their lives.”

The Rt Hon Amber Rudd, MP for Hastings and Rye and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions visited Silverdale Primary Academy on the morning of the launch. While there she officially opened the new school library, read an excerpt from The Iron Man by Ted Hughes to a group of Year 3 children, and chatted to pupils about their favourite books.

Jonathan Morris, Headteacher of Silverdale, commented:

“Silverdale are so proud to be part of the launch – it’s such a wonderful initiative.”

An additional 13 primary, secondary and special schools were involved in literacy-themed assemblies hosted by exciting speakers and storytellers, which helped reach a further 1,800 pupils. This was also an opportunity to launch the Hastings 100 Reads initiative – a hunt for the town’s top book recommendations – and to donate a bundle of books from Walker Books for their school library. A selection of donated books went to all schools in Hastings, adding up to approximately 800 books given away on the day.

The day finished with an event held at Stade Hall where local partners and dignitaries met to learn more about the campaign and pledge their support. Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust, opened the speeches highlighting the exciting events of the day and introduced the Rt Hon Amber Rudd who spoke about the key link between social mobility and literacy.

Delegates also heard from the Mayor of Hastings Cllr Nigel Sinden, performance poet Lucas Howard, National Literacy Trust Hastings Hub Manager Graeme Quinnell, and two MY Trust youth ambassadors from Ark Helenswood Academy.

If you are interested in volunteering in Hastings or learning more about the campaign, please contact Hub Manager, Graeme Quinnell: gethastingsreading@literacytrust.org.uk or visit gethastingsreading.org.uk.

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