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Duchess of Cornwall opens new school library in Newport

The Duchess of Cornwall high-fives pupils as she leaves Millbrook Primary School in Newport, South Wales (Finbarr Webster/PA)

CHILDREN at Millbrook Primary School in Bettws sang Happy Birthday to Camilla as she opened a new library. 

The Duchess of Cornwall also received cake during her visit to the Newport school this week, as she prepares to celebrate her 75th birthday on July 17. 

The Duchess of Cornwall was greeted by head teacher Keri Smith, as well as local dignitaries, and received a warm welcome from the students and teachers. 

While on the couple’s annual Welsh tour, Prince Charles was joined by First Minister Mark Drakeford at the National Botanic Garden of Wales at Llanarthne. 

Camilla also met the school’s “reading buddy,” Talisen the dog, who is available for students to read aloud to if they prefer not to read to another person while they are learning to read. 

The library is one of hundreds transformed by the National Literacy Trust and publishing company Penguin Random House as part of the Primary School Library Alliance to address chronic underfunding of such facilities.

Camilla, who is the patron of the National Literacy Fund, also launched The Duchess’ Birthday Books Project. 

Camilla meeting Taliesin in the new library (Finbarr Webster/PA)

Camilla announced that in honour of her birthday, she would provide 75 disadvantaged primary schools with a wellbeing and happiness-themed mini library. The initiative is expected to benefit approximately 25,000 children. 

Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon, and children’s authors Tom Percival, Nadia Shireen, Connor Allen, and Casi Wyn joined Camilla on her tour.

Ms Cowell said: “I remember all the books that were read to me as a child by teachers, my parents. They live with me.

“The library is a safe space and books are often a great comfort. There is a wisdom in books often, and you’re learning life lessons through a story.”

“Libraries are a way out too. You can’t get a job without basic literacy skills,” she added.

“As the Sutton Trust has said, we’re facing a real problem with social mobility particularly, exacerbated by the pandemic. We have to try and address this and bring out the best in all children. It’s not a society if some children fall further and further behind. This is our country’s future.”

Ms Smith stated that literacy rates had plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic and that it is critical to address the issue as soon as possible..

The Duchess of Cornwall at Millbrook Primary School in Newport (Finbarr Webster/PA)

“For our children this is one of the most important things that has certainly happened to them thus far, and something they will remember for the rest of their lives,” headteacher Ms Smith said.

“This library is going to leave a legacy of interested readers which will pass on from their generation to the next generation.

“I can’t tell you how vital this is for us. We are one of those schools in a socio-economically disadvantaged community, one of the one in four who did not have a library, and now we have the best library in the world, in my opinion.”

Sanjiv Somani, chief executive of Chase in the UK, whose Rewarding Futures School Libraries programme funded the library renovation, said: “Creating an inspiring and welcoming space in schools is one of the first steps in helping children discover the magic of reading, which we believe provides a vital contribution to their mental wellbeing.”