AN MP has pledged to support a national literacy initiative during a visit to a North-East school’s new library.

Peter Gibson joined Waterstone’s Children’s Laureate, Cressida Cowell MBE – author-illustrator of the best-selling How to Train Your Dragon series – to see how pupils at Skerne Park Academy, in Darlington, have reacted to the creation of the library

Skerne Park Academy is one of six schools around the country to have benefited from Cressida Cowell’s flagship project as Waterstones Children’s Laureate, ‘Life-changing Libraries’, delivered in partnership with BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity. Mr Gibson heard about the campaign to encourage the Government to ring-fence an annual investment of £100m for schools to spend on libraries and books.

Ms Cowell told the MP: “While £300 million is ring-fenced for physical education provision in schools, there is nothing set aside for libraries and books. Research shows that access to a library with more than 500 books counteracts the effect of poverty on a child’s later life-chances.”

The initiative is supported by Reading for Pleasure UK, and its director, Catherine Millar, said: “There is a massive body of research that shows that it’s the motivation to read that improves children’s chances in life.

“It’s really wonderful seeing the children in Skerne Park invested and motivated in reading, and using really fantastic vocabulary now, in their writing and their speech. The library is changing their lives.”

Mr Gibson pledged to sponsor a room in Parliament where the MPs from the six areas where schools have received funding to build libraries could meet to discuss the way forward.

He said: “It was fantastic to visit Skerne Park this afternoon to see the wonderful library, and I look forward to seeing this project develop nationally.”

Ms Cowell added: “It’s been so exciting to see what the school is doing with its library, and how it’s turned the whole school into readers for the joy of it. It was wonderful to meet the local MP and to hear that he’s backing the campaign. The real dream is that every single primary school has a library, and that all children have the opportunity to discover the life-changing magic of reading.”