Thousands of youngsters set to enjoy Chichester's new children's book festival

Penny Tomlinson (left) and Sahra Gott,
Penny Tomlinson (left) and Sahra Gott,

One in 11 children in the UK does not own a single book – a fact which has prompted the creation of this year’s first-ever Chichester Children’s BookFest.

Running from October 1-3 over three days, it will bring 19 authors into 21 schools to reach more than 4,000 children.

The event is the brainchild of Chichester’s Penny Tomlinson. Penny has a background in magazine publishing and was part of the team that launched the Appledore Book Festival in Devon, now in its 13th year.

Helping Penny set up the BookFest is Sahra Gott, who has a long track record in publishing and event organisation.

During the festival, authors, poets and illustrators will spend an hour in classrooms across the city, Penny said: “Not only reading and talking about the stories they write and illustrate, but also sharing their own very personal experiences of school – funny, sad and hugely inspirational.

“It is a fantastic opportunity for over 4,000 pupils to meet and talk with well-known authors and illustrators and to receive signed copies of their book.”

Penny added: “In 2018 The National Literacy Trust told us that one in 11 children in the UK did not own a single book of their own.

“As a mother and grandmother, I found this statistic shocking and totally unacceptable.”

Through donations, a book sale and other events, Penny and Sarah raised around £8,000 to make it happens. Schools and parents have also been getting together in the hope that as many children as possible during the festival will end up with a new book to take home.

Penny and Sahra have been delighted with the response from the schools and also the response from the authors. Between them they have also got together a team of marshals to welcome and accompany the writers who will be doing 56 sessions between them over the three days.

“We hope that this will become an annual festival and inspire young people with a life-long love of reading as well as stimulating their imaginations and creativity.”

Authors taking part include Philip Ardagh, Paul Collicutt, Luke Temple, David Fuller, Zehra Hicks, Catherine Johnson, Rachel Rooney, Ele Fountain, Rob Lloyd Jones, Jo Simmons, Abie Longstaff, Steve Tassane, Ally Sherrick, Lauren St John, Cameron McAllister, Andy Mulligan, Roger Stevens and Matt Carr.

Participating schools include Birdham CE Primary School, Bishop Luffa C of E Secondary School, Boxgrove C of E Primary School, Chichester Free School, Chichester High School, Chidham Parochial Primary School, Fishbourne C of E Primary School, Great Ballard School, Jessie Younghusband Primary School, Kingsham Primary School, Lavant CE Primary School, North Mundham Primary School, Oakwood Prep School, Portfield Primary Academy, Singleton CE Primary School, St Richard’s Catholic Primary School, Tangmere Primary Academy, The March CE Primary School, West Dean C of E Primary School, Westbourne House School and Westbourne Primary School.

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