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GETTING books into schools opens up new worlds for kids, says acclaimed author and illustrator Alex T Smith.

The creator of the bestselling Claude books — now a popular telly show — has called The Sun’s Books For Schools campaign “truly wonderful”.

Alex, who is originally from Coventry, says: “By getting books into schools, The Sun is giving children the key to a magical new world. It’s is a wonderful thing.

“I was helping my parents clear out the attic recently and I discovered a piece I’d written in reception where I said I liked reading, writing and drawing. My life was laid out there!”

We have an amazing £12million worth of books up for grabs for primary schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Registered schools that collect 3,500 tokens will be sent a box of books, worth more than £600, from the Collins Big Cat reading programme.

Alex’s new series, Mr Penguin, has won multiple awards. It is aimed at slightly older children, aged six to eight. The books are full of slapstick humour and quirky illustrations.

Alex, 34, who grew up in a house where books were plentiful, adds: “Both of my parents were teachers — and went on to become headteachers — so there were always books in the house. My grandfather was a writer and librarian, so every week when I spent time with him I had the run of the library too.

“I used to convert a chair into my own little hutch. I would drape a blanket over the top of it and go into my hutch with my book, sketchbook and pencils. I was totally happy. The first book that sparked something in me was The Tiger Who Came To Tea by Judith Kerr.

“I loved the idea something so extraordinary can happen right in the middle of a very domestic setting. It sparked something in me.

“For five-year-old Alex, the thought of going to a cafe in the night in my pyjamas seemed like the most exciting thing that could ever happen.”

Alex adds: “Even as an adult, reading is something I have to do. If I’ve been incredibly busy and not had so much time to do it, I don’t feel as happy or connected to things.

“I’ve written for children for 14 years and I love it more than ever. It’s a big honour to write for children. There is something magical about it.”

Alex does a lot of school visits and says that is an important part of writing for youngsters. He says: “Children are so sophisticated, funny and weird. Meeting them is really important.

“I really do believe that anyone can draw. Of course some people have an innate talent — and I suppose I was quite good naturally. However, I put in hours and hours of practice.

“If ever I’ve got spare time, I’ll more than likely pick up my sketchbook, even if I’ve been drawing all day.”

1. Get your school to register at by Friday, November 22, 2019. Only schools can register, so encourage yours to sign up

2. Help your school collect 3,500 tokens from The Sun and The Sun on Sunday between Saturday, November 23, 2019, and Saturday, January 18, 2020

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