COFFEE shops are often full of people enjoying a good read over a hot drink.

Now that very same concept has been brought into school to encourage children to develop a love of reading.

A high school in Farnworth has “opened” its own Starbooks.

The novel idea by assistant headteacher Janet Blitcliffe at Harper Green School is proving such a hit that more youngsters want to visit the reading cafe, which is held one morning a week.

Year seven youngsters are paired up with a reading buddy from year nine, who acts as their mentor.

They read with them and then discuss plots, characters and vocabulary over a drink of hot chocolate, or fruit drinks together with toast or biscuits.

Senior teacher Kathryn Cuthbert, who co-ordinates Starbooks, said: “We recruited year nine pupils who were avid readers themselves to be reading buddies who would listen to and read with the year seven each week.

“The reading cafe is open every Tuesday morning from 8.30am to 9.10am and pupils are provided with refreshments as they read.”

And just as they would in any traditional coffee shop, the youngsters are able to choose their own books, either from the school library or bring one from home. The mentors had to apply for the position and were interviewed.

They attended a training course to enable them to become effective mentors and get most out of the young people during the sessions — which are designed to be as far removed from a traditional lesson as possible.

Mrs Cuthbert said: “We wanted it to be more informal and more relaxed than a classroom setting. Young people can chat and read.

“The ‘cafe’ has been very successful, the pupils are enjoying it. They are already queueing up and waiting to come into the cafe.

“We have more young people wanting to join, and because this has been so successful we will continue it with different pupils.”

As well as raising literacy standards, the sessions are increasing the confidence of the school’s newcomers through the social aspect of Starbooks.

Mentors also hand out “homework”, designed to increase the pupils appreciation of the book, such as completing another chapter.

Matthew Ferguson, aged 14, said: “Young people can find reading a struggle because they don’t enjoy it, and something like this would have helped.

“I enjoy reading and want to help others to do the same.”

Elise Flitcroft, aged 13, added: “It is a relaxing environment in which we can help young people.”

Cole Holgate, aged 11, said: “I think Starbooks is really good, I thought reading was boring but it isn’t, and we can read what we are interested in.”

Anna Denjoh, aged 12, added: “I enjoy it, I prefer this to reading in lessons, because you are reading what you want and can talk about the characters. I read more at home now.”