Judge and Jury: Literacy facts put down in black and white are read all over - The use of book tokens helped the Government spell out the importance of the National Year of Reading, says Nick Brown, managing director of Northern Profile

The National Year of Reading got off to a great start. I positively loved the idea of Education Secretary David Blunkett handing out pounds 1,000 pounds worth of book tokens to all schools with 100 or more pupils. While not a huge gift, the symbolism of book tokens is a PR dream.

The National Year of Reading got off to a great start. I positively

loved the idea of Education Secretary David Blunkett handing out pounds

1,000 pounds worth of book tokens to all schools with 100 or more

pupils. While not a huge gift, the symbolism of book tokens is a PR

dream.



Blunkett could have come out and said he was investing millions of

pounds in books but instead, by giving pounds 1,000 in book tokens to

qualifying schools, he captured the imagination of news desks. It was

executed in a way that could not have been matched with a

straightforward ’investment in education’ story.



I was also impressed with the obvious dedication that went into the

planning of the campaign. For instance, persuading the EastEnders

producers to focus on the issue of literacy proved a tremendous boost to

the campaign, and there are similar plans for Channel 4’s Brookside.



The PR team should also target popular bands and Saturday morning

children’s TV shows. As the former host of the national children’s ITV

links, I know what a powerful influence children’s TV can be. I would

also encourage television and radio programmes to give away book tokens

rather than CD tokens as prizes.



Most importantly, I think the magazines which appeal to young people

should be encourage to run competitions to offer readers the chance to

win book tokens and feature interviews with their heroes on the

importance of reading. For example, I would sign up Michael Owen, the

Liverpool and England star, to spearhead the campaign.



The PR launch has been handled extremely well, but I hope it is not just

skin deep. I get the impression that Labour is very good at spinning,

but less effective at delivering. I really think that the campaign has

to focus much more on the high levels of illiteracy.



As well as offering book tokens to schools, the Government needs to

create a reading culture, and to do this it needs to follow through the

initial PR drive. It needs to get children back into libraries and to

encourage young families to think of books as a household essential.



Overall, thumbs up for an innovative and well-planned campaign, but

don’t forget the substance Mr Blunkett. Our schools are poorly funded.

Education in general needs more ideas like this.



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