3,000 schoolchildren will take part in Portsmouth City Council’s Big City Read over the next few months, reading Boy Giant: Son of Gulliver by children’s author Michael Morpurgo and published by Harper Collins Children’s books.
Boy Giant is inspired by the classic story of Gulliver’s Travels as the main character Omar and his mother are forced to leave their home in Afghanistan and travel across the sea to Europe.
33 schools have signed up for the initiative which will encourage year six pupils to read the book, discuss and then, in July, take part in a live webinar with Michael.
Cllr Suzy Horton, Cabinet Member for Children, Families and Education, and Deputy Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “Reading for pleasure is so important for a young person’s development; helping to increase general knowledge, gain a better understanding of other cultures, and develop our vocabulary.
“To have so many children reading the same book at the same time across our city will support us in promoting a culture of books and reading, and to help our year six pupils as they transition to secondary school, in what has been a very difficult year for many.”
Pupils will be encouraged to explore the themes of the book which focus on refuge, war, kindness and hope. This links with Portsmouth’s status as a City of Sanctuary; a pledge from 141 organisations in the city to offer safety and sanctuary to anyone fleeing violence and persecution and those who are vulnerable and isolated.
Michael said: “We think that there are about 60 million refugees in this world of ours and some will end up on our shores. What’s important is that they are welcomed as fellow human beings, not as refugees, that we acknowledge the sacrifices they have made just to get here. That is why I wrote Boy Giant and many other books that are about those children who most need family, a future and safety.
“Portsmouth looks out to the world. We think of all the people who sailed the seas over the centuries from Portsmouth and found new worlds, and we think of all the people who sailed the seas and found new homes here with us.
“This is an initiative that I am so pleased to be a part of. It’s through books and libraries that many of us first meet these people, and first discover that they are simply the same as us and that we need each other.”
Alongside the Big City Read, a large sand sculpture of the Boy Giant is on loan from Harper Collins Children’s Books to Portsmouth Central Library over the summer for public viewing. Pupils and their families are encouraged to visit the library to see the sculpture.