YOUNG inpatients in Gloucestershire are getting to know a number of different characters as part of a new scheme sending books and storytellers into UK children’s hospitals.

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital is one of the first hospitals in the South West to successfully apply to join the ReadWell initiative, developed in consultation with nursing and education hospital staff to bring the positive power of reading and storytelling to seriously ill children.

The charity provides mobile bookcases, custom-made for easy movement in a hospital environment.

The distinctive orange bookcases are kept stocked with a mix of old favourite and future classics, chosen by an independent bookseller to meet the specific needs of seriously ill children in hospital.

All the books are brand new, which means copies can be enjoyed even by children at high risk of infection, for example those following chemotherapy.

ReadWell is also sending in a professional storyteller twice-termly onto the Children’s Ward.

ReadWell was set up by UK charity Read for Good in 2010. Following an extensive pilot in three hospitals, the charity aims to roll-out its service in all of the UK’s 30 main children’s hospitals by 2015.

Vicky Pember ReadWell Manager said: “Every year, more than 100,000 children are hospitalised with serious and prolonged illness. Stories have always entertained and distracted.

"Reading for pleasure can also help children from falling behind educationally, a real problem if you’re missing a lot of school.”

Councillor Dorcas Binns, cabinet member for public health said: “I am delighted that Gloucestershire Royal Hospital can now offer this scheme to its young patients.

"We hope the fact that they can read some quality books and enjoy visits from storytellers will give them a big lift.

"Reading can offer escapism, entertainment and be a big boost mentally as well as educationally for these brave young people.”

Carmel Herrick, hospital school teacher on the children’s ward at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital said: “We feel privileged that ReadWell has offered this amazing opportunity. Sharing a book with a child is one of the loveliest gifts you can give and we are looking forward to working with ReadWell in the future.

"We will be combining this launch with a fundraising event for the Sierra Leone Fund with cream teas."

Authors actively supporting ReadWell include Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman, Nick Sharratt, Tracy Beaker illustrator; Julia Donaldson, The Gruffalo; David Melling, Hugless Douglas; Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon and David Almond, Skellig. Most of the UK’s major publishers of children’s books are also supporters of ReadWell.