More than one thousand books are being given away free to families this Christmas, as part of the Read Manchester campaign from Manchester City Council and the National Literacy Trust.

50 children in Moston Lane were the first to receive books, when copies of Barry the Fish and Winnie the Witch were handed out on Saturday 26 November, as the community Christmas lights were switched on.

On Saturday 10 December, hundreds of children in Harpurhey will find a book in their stocking when they visit Santa’s grotto at Harpurhey Shopping Centre.  From 11am – 3pm, Santa will be handing out popular titles including Geek Inc and Diary of a Wimpy Kid, along with stickers and bookmarks.

Families at the shopping centre will also have the chance to enjoy an entertaining performance from poet Craig Bradley (also known as That Poetry Bloke), and find out how to get involved in the Read Manchester campaign.

The Christmas giveaway will continue in 22 libraries across Manchester, where 500 copies of Mog’s Christmas Calamity by Judith Kerr will be gifted to families. They will be on offer at Christmas-themed storytime sessions, aimed at children under five.The storytime sessions take place weekly during school term time, providing an opportunity to meet new local families and helping children to develop a love of reading from an early age.

The Read Manchester Christmas giveaway is part of year-long programme of activities set to get the city reading and improve literacy levels.A survey of 5,200 Manchester pupils conducted at the start of the campaign shows that while two thirds (66.4%) of pupils in Manchester enjoy reading, just 38.7% read outside class every day and almost a third (32.8%) only read when they have to.

Councillor Sheila Newman, Executive Member for Children’s Services at Manchester City Council, said: “The Read Manchester Christmas campaign will connect families across the city with the books and activities on offer at our network of libraries. We’re keen to encourage a life-time love of reading at an early age and this is a great way to provide more Manchester children with great books to inspire them.”

National Literacy Trust Director Jonathan Douglas said:“We hope that the Christmas giveaway will inspire parents in Manchester to spend time reading with their children over the festive season. Just 10 minutes a day is enough to have a real impact on their literacy skills and help to nurture a love of reading that will last a lifetime.”

For more information and details of the storytime sessions, visit readmanchester.org.uk.

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