Staffordshire Housing Association has teamed up with the National Literacy Trust’s Stoke Reads BookBench Trail to help encourage youngsters to get reading.

Staffordshire Housing have sponsored one of the 20 BookBenches, which have been decorated by schools and community groups from across the city with designs inspired by books and reading, and helped fund the wider project and trail.

As well as sponsoring Stoke Minster Primary School’s BookBench, residents from over 55’s independent living scheme, West End Village, were invited to join the school to support them to design and decorate the bench.

For one West End Village resident, this was a very personal opportunity. Steve Rhodes left the school in 1955 and was delighted to be asked to help them design their BookBench: “When Jan (Activities Coordinator at West End Village) told me we were linking with the school for the book bench, I thought it was good and was looking forward to it.

Sharing his memories of his time at school, Steve said: “I don’t remember much of the school because I spend a lot of time out running with the rest of the cross country team, which was a lot of fun.

“I remember the woodwork teacher once pulled an old airplane propeller out of the Trent at the back of the school. He cut it up and used the middle to make a beautiful wooden bowl. It was gorgeous.

“I like drawing cartoons and painting and Jan asked me if I would come down and go to one of the meetings. The children had got some ideas of what they wanted to put onto the bench. There was just that one hole at each end, where the two legs part at the side of the bench and there was nothing in there. To me, it looked like a tunnel, so I said about putting a train coming out, which you can see on the bench.”

Jan Garner, Activity Coordinator at the Village, said: “West End is a very lively Village that likes to get involved with inter-generational projects as the benefits for the residents are numerous.

“It was a simple decision for us to be part of the project, which promotes reading to children and also encourages them to use their imagination and artistic skills. Just having young people and children around makes our residents smile and working alongside them, sharing stories, songs and skills also raises their self-esteem and confidence.”

The Stoke Minster Primary School BookBench will be on display at Stoke Library from April 15 to June 30 2019. 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.

A celebration event will be held at West End Village on Tuesday 14 May 2019 10.30am – 1pm where the BookBench will be showcased. This will include the children of Stoke Minster Primary School and Fieldhouse Nursery, staff from Stoke Library and residents and staff of West End Village and Staffordshire Housing to celebrate books, reading and literacy.

Find out more about the BookBench and trail here: https://literacytrust.org.uk/communities/stoke