One of the judges helping to find the best young writers in the country for BBC Radio Two in the coming months will be Thorpe St Andrew School’s librarian, Amanda Allen.

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"It’s very important to get children reading early. They must not see reading as a chore and not just something they do in English."

Amanda Allen.

The national radio station has launched its 500 Words competition for writers under-13 years old once more, with a celebrity judging panel waiting to choose the winners.

Radio Two breakfast presenter Chris Evans will be joined by TV comedian and author of Billionaire Boy David Walliams, as well as author of Tracey Beaker, Dame Jacqueline Wilson; author of the Young Bond series, Charlie Higson; author of Charlie and Lola, Lauren Child; and author of Mr Gum, Andy Stanton.

Amanda, 45, who lives in Thorpe, has been the librarian at the school for nine years and during this time has introduced hundreds of children to the range of books and reading material in the school’s library.

She has always supported World Book Day, which is this Thursday, and encouraged entries to the BBC Radio Two competition - but this year she decided to get even more involved. She applied online to become a volunteer judge and, supported by a reference from English teacher and head of key stage three English, Pauline Whitton, she has been accepted.

Amanda expects to receive about 30 to 50 entries from a possible 60,000 in total, as one of more than 1,000 regional judges.

She said: “It will be really good fun to see what they have come up with. I was looking at some of the stuff that was written last year and there is some really good stuff, so I’m looking forward to reading this year’s.”

Amanda says that she has always loved reading and started to write her own stories at the age of seven. Since Amanda took over running the library it has become a showcase where the school library service sends librarians to see what can be done.

In an age when many people think that children read less, the library at Thorpe is always full and busy and, bucking the trend, it’s boys who make up 90pc of the lunchtime users of the library.

Amanda added: “It’s very important to get children reading early. They must not see reading as a chore and not just something they do in English. It needs to be instilled reading is for pleasure because that stays with them. I wrote stories and poems from an early age and it stayed with me.

“It’s good for them to feel confident from an early age and a competition is a good way of making that work. They are coming up to me already and saying ‘when will we hear back?’ already, it’s really sweet.”

As one of the participating judges, Amanda is also automatically entered into a draw for a pair of tickets to attend the live broadcast of the Chris Evans Breakfast Show from Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts, on Friday, June 1.

Is your school holding a competition? Contact reporter David Freezer on 01603 772418 or david.freezer@archant.co.uk

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