SIR Gavin Williamson joined celebrations for World Book Day, taking part in a parliamentary debate dedicated to the event.

World Book Day was set up by UNESCO in 1995 and takes place every year on March 7 to encourage more children to read.

Sir Gavin said: “World Book Day is incredibly important. It is an opportunity to put a real focus on the importance of a book for every child right across the country.

“We should all feel a great sense of pride in the scheme, which the Publishers Association has championed over the years. It is not just about what is being done in schools and for children; it is also a celebration of the fact that Britain is a world-leading nation in publishing.

"We have some of the best companies in the world based here in the United Kingdom, employing so many people right across the country.”

Stourbridge News: Sir Gavin Williamson speaking in ParliamentSir Gavin Williamson speaking in Parliament (Image: Sir Gavin Williamson MP)

Sir Gavin pointed out during the debate that there is a disparity in child literacy across the UK.

He said a survey by BookTrust found that out of 2,000 low-income families, less than half of all children under seven were being read a bedtime story and this has consequences for a child’s prospects in later life, as studies have suggested those with lower levels of literacy earn on average seven per cent less.

Sir Gavin celebrated several government initiatives improving access and engagement with reading among young people and he applauded a £20 million libraries improvement fund.

But he stressed more could be done to increase the numbers of books in libraries and lamented the decrease in book stocks across the country.

He said: “We saw library book stocks decrease by 11 per cent across England, Wales and Scotland between 2021 and 2022.

“We need the best possible range of stock in our libraries so that when youngsters have that book that they picked up on World Book Day, they have the opportunity to feed and develop their enthusiasm.”