MAGICAL stories captured the imagination of spellbound young shoppers at an event which marked the start of a campaign to get more children reading.

Families visiting Altrincham Retail Park were treated to free, fun story telling sessions with magician Barrington Powell aboard his Reading Bug VW camper van.

Barrington, who has impressed the likes of Wimbledon champ Andy Murray, top comedian Peter Kay and the Duke of Edinburgh, was dressed as Roald Dahl’s magical chocolatier Willy Wonka.

He was joined at the event to mark World Story Telling Day by his two, faithful ladybug assistants and after performing a range of tricks, Barrington invited youngsters to settle down and listen to him recount some of Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes.

There to enjoy the event were mum Emma Loat and her little daughter Dorrie Welton, who is two and a half.

Emma, a general manager for Forsyth Music Shop in Manchester, said: “It’s a really sweet event and Dorrie really enjoyed the story telling – she was spellbound. It’s great that it’s free too which is always a bonus.

“We read together every night before bed. Dorrie’s favourite story at the moment is ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’.

“I am definitely in favour of anything which gets children interested in reading and bringing a story to life.”

The family friendly event kickstarted a wider campaign at the retail park called ‘Get Altrincham Reading’.

As part of the high profile drive, children are invited to write a short story based on the sentence ‘I like Altrincham because…’.

The stories will be put up on display at Altrincham Retail Park in the coming weeks and shoppers will be encouraged to vote for their favourite. The school with the most successful entries will be awarded a bumper stack of books.

Jo Francis, head of retail property management for Altrincham Retail Park, said: “We had a terrific turnout for our Reading Bug event and it was lovely to see so many children captivated by Barrington and his wonderful stories.

“It is all part of our campaign to inspire young children to pick up a book and enjoy a great story, whether it is something they sit quietly and do themselves or they share with their families.

“Our Reading Bug event certainly proved the magical powers of books and a good tale. We are really looking forward to reading some of the enchanting stories which our young shoppers come up with and putting them on display at Altrincham Retail Park.”

At the event on Saturday, there was also a book hunt, with families invited to search for numbered clues at stores in the retail park, and the answers formed a fun rhyme.

Each child who handed in their completed rhyme at Barrington’s Reading Bug received a bag of candyfloss plus the chance to enter a prize draw to win £100 of goodies from stores at the retail park. Other shops also offered special discounts linked with the event.

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