Volunteers are running special reading sessions in schools to help youngsters reach proper literacy standards by the time they’re 11.

New books worth £100,000 have been donated to 50 primary schools in Barking and Dagenham this week by the Bookmark Reading children’s national charity, to help where some pupils are falling behind.

One in four pupils in the country are said to be unable to read well by the time they start secondary education, the charity points out.

Schools in Barking and Dagenham were put on the charity’s radar, with the mayor joining children’s author Laura Mucha for a special reading assembly at Southwood Primary, which received 200 new books.

“We’ve been writing a poem together with the children,” Laura said. “I hope their new books and their work with Bookmark Reading Charity helps to build excitement about reading for pleasure and creative writing.”

Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, more than parents’ educational background or income, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

But many children are leaving primary education unable to read well. This led to the Bookmark charity setting up in 2018 and recruiting volunteers to visit schools in deprived areas of Tower Hamlets to help improve literacy rates.

But the campaign was hit by the pandemic when many schools had to close. It was rebooted in 2021 in Neasden and Harlesden in north west London and is now running in Barking and Dagenham, where packs of books worth £2,000 were delivered to schools which applied to join the scheme last month.

Bookmark Reading charity’s chief executive Emily Jack, who also dropped in at Southwood School, said: “We shared the joy of reading with these new books and the power of storytelling in their very own assembly with Laura. We hope our reading sessions give all children the chance to discover the joy of story books.”

Mayor Donna Lumson is backing the charity’s appeal for volunteers to go into classrooms and help children improve their reading.

Bookmark volunteers run sessions each week for six weeks with a child aged five to 10, reading stories and also playing games on the charity’s secure online platform.