Staffordshire Housing Association (SHA) and residents at West End Village have been celebrating all things books at their BookBench celebration event.

The BookBench and Trail have been organised by the National Literacy Trust’s Stoke Reads to help encourage youngsters to get reading. 20 BookBenches have been decorated by schools and community groups from across the city with designs inspired by books and reading.

Staffordshire Housing have sponsored one of the benches and residents from over 55’s independent living scheme, West End Village, were invited to join Stoke Minster Primary School to help them design and decorate the bench.

This week, the bench was unveiled to residents along with pupils from Stoke Minster Primary and children from nearby Fieldhouse Nursery. The event also saw a local poet, Nick Degg, storyteller, Alan Barratt, and a choir all performing and telling stories.

Rachael Cleary, Community Enterprise and Growth Project Manager at Staffordshire Housing Group, said: “We’ve had a nice number of residents come out, including those that have been directly involved in the project. Everyone has loved seeing the BookBench being revealed and lots of people have been over to have a sit on it.

“I think everyone’s had a really lovely day and the message has been about enjoying books and enjoying reading regardless of what age you are. I think the residents have got an awful lot out of watching the children and getting involved in the activities today and during the project.”

 Take a look at the photos from the BookBench celebration event below. 

Alan Barratt, a Stoke based Storyteller, came along to tell stories to both the children and the residents. He says the event has been an opportunity to remind people that reading is really essential: “Anything that is intergenerational is hugely beneficial. The older people have got some incredible stories to tell, real life stories.

“My mum was an evacuee from the London Blitz and a lot of these people here will have stories from when the pottery and coal industries were booming and there’s lots that they can pass onto the children which helps them hopefully fire their imaginations and go and do some research and find out more.”

David Feldman, Business Manager for Stoke Reads, said: “I thought the event today was fantastic, watching all the young children and the residents enjoy themselves so much and it’s a great use of the bench. I’d like to thank Staffs Housing and West End Village for hosting this event.

“The challenge in Stoke on Trent is to ensure that the statistics around reading improves and that young people realise a love of reading. We hope the BookBench will raise the profile of reading across the city.”

The Stoke Minster Primary School BookBench is currently on display at Stoke Library until 30 June 2019. Stoke on Trent libraries also donated lots of children’s books to encourage residents to think about books they enjoyed as children, as well as for the children to talk about which ones they’ve enjoyed reading.

Kylie Scott, a Librarian at Stoke on Trent Libraries, said: “It’s been really positive seeing the younger people and the residents enjoying storytelling in all its forms with poetry, songs and traditional storytelling.

“Reading helps set up a lot of things for life, such as sharing stories and having shared experiences, which are both very important and it’s not limited to what age you are, you can always learn something from somebody else’s story. I think it’s a really important foundation for all stages of life.”

Children and families can discover all 20 BookBenches by following the trail around the City. The trail maps can be collected at West End Village, Stoke Library or any other venue taking part.

Once the trail has finished, the bench will return to Stoke Minster Primary School for the children to use and enjoy.

Find out more about the BookBench and trail here.