Pupils sing Happy Birthday to Camilla at opening of school library

Children sang Happy Birthday to the Duchess of Cornwall as she officially opened a new library at a school in South Wales.

Camilla was also presented with a cake during her visit to Millbrook Primary School in Bettws, Newport on Wednesday.

The library is one of hundreds being transformed by the nationwide Primary School Library Alliance, founded by the National Literacy Trust and Penguin Random House, to address the chronic underfunding of such institutions.

Camilla, patron of the National Literacy Trust, also used the day to launch the Duchess’ birthday book project.

To celebrate her 75th birthday, she announced that she will be providing a mini-library on wellbeing and happiness to 75 primary schools in disadvantaged areas across the UK. The initiative will reach around 25,000 children.

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

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The royal visitor received a warm welcome from the students and teachers, as well as being greeted by Headmistress Keri Smith and local dignitaries.

She also met the school’s “reading buddy” – a dog named Taliesin, who is on hand when children prefer to read to him over another person while studying.

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

Ms Cowell told the PA news agency: “I remember all the books that were read to me as a child by teachers, my parents. you live with me

“The library is a safe place and books are often a great comfort. There is often wisdom in books and life lessons are learned through a story.”

Camilla met ‘reading buddy’ Taliesin in the new library (Image: Finbarr Webster/PA)

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Camilla revealed during the author’s speech that one of the books helping her escape is Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

“Libraries are also a way out. You can’t get a job without basic literacy skills,” Ms. Cowell continued.

“As the Sutton Trust said, we face a real social mobility problem that is being exacerbated by the pandemic. We must try to address this and bring out the best in all children. It’s not society when some kids keep falling behind. This is the future of our country.”

Ms Smith said literacy has fallen during the coronavirus pandemic and it is important to address the issue as soon as possible.

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

Author Cressida Cowell speaks to the congregation at Millbrook Primary School (Finbarr Webster/PA)

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“This library will leave a legacy of interested readers that will be passed from their generation to the next generation.

“I can’t tell you how important this is to us. We’re one of those schools in a socio-economically disadvantaged community, one of four that didn’t 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 program funded the library’s refurbishment, said: “Creating an inspiring and welcoming space in schools is one of the first steps in helping children discover the magic of the Reading to discover what we believe in makes an important contribution to their emotional well-being.”

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