Duchess of Cornwall uses hand puppets at launch of campaign to get dads reading to children

08:07 22 February 2013

The Duchess of Cornwall holds a puppet character from the children

The Duchess of Cornwall holds a puppet character from the children's book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak at a reading session at West Greenwich Library. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

The Duchess of Cornwall entertained children with hand puppets to launch a campaign urging dads to read to their children.

The Duchess of Cornwall meets father and daughter Kabir Miah and Shakira Begum, four, during a visit to West Greenwich Library in London. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA WireThe Duchess of Cornwall meets father and daughter Kabir Miah and Shakira Begum, four, during a visit to West Greenwich Library in London. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Camilla joined best-selling author James Patterson at the campaign launch at West Greenwich Library yesterday.

As a storyteller read the classic tale Where The Wild Things Are to the youngsters in West Greenwich Library, the Duchess shook the puppet during the dramatic moments.

The toy was a character from the story by Maurice Sendak about a little boy who travels to a magical land inhabited by fantastical creatures and becomes their king.

The Duchess also read the famous poem by AA Milne about changing the guard at Buckingham Palace.

The Duchess of Cornwall reads a poem to children at a reading session during a visit to West Greenwich Library. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA WireThe Duchess of Cornwall reads a poem to children at a reading session during a visit to West Greenwich Library. Picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA Wire

Before she started, she joked with her young audience and their parents, telling them: “It’s a poem my father used to read to me - that was about 100 years ago.”

Camilla and Patterson had travelled to Greenwich to launch the Booktrust’s Get Dads Reading campaign.

The Duchess is the organisation’s patron, while the US thriller writer, who has sold more than 250 books worldwide, is a founding partner of a fund run by the Booktrust to get disadvantaged kids reading.

Patterson, who was also joined by his wife Sue, stressed that it was the responsibility of parents to encourage their children to read and not that of their school.

He said: “We are here to save lives, that’s my role, because if you cannot read your life will be severely disadvantaged.

“This is not about reading Charles Dickens or Shakespeare but learning to read with confidence and if you can do that you can make your way through school, college and work.

“If you cannot read you just look at school and think ‘This is hopeless’ and so you reject it. America is ahead in getting kids to read, the UK is behind America - something’s going wrong here.”

A poll by Opinium for Booktrust reveals that just 13 per cent of dads are the main reader with their child, with a quarter of fathers saying that the demand for them to work late means that they do not have time to read together more often.

Further research, commissioned by Booktrust from the Institute of Education, revealed through a series of in-depth interviews that many fathers see reading as a female domain.

When they do read to their children, fathers favour their daughters over their sons, reading to them for longer, and more often, the research found.

Commenting on the research, Viv Bird, Booktrust’s chief executive, said: “The most crucial thing for dads to understand is that if kids see their dads reading they’re more likely to enjoy it themselves.

“There is evidence that boys are slipping further behind girls in reading – and this emphasises how important it is that dads are positive role models to their sons as well as their daughters when it comes to reading.”

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