AS far as hitting the books goes, one Southampton school is leading the pack.

Pupils at St George Catholic College were set the challenge of increasing the time they spent independently reading in a bid to improve literacy levels.

Each pupil in Year 7 and 8 was asked to read for at least 30 minutes a week and record the time they had spent behind the books, with the overall total being collated each term.

Teachers were stunned to discover that youngsters have already collectively spent more than one million minutes reading – with a half-term still to go.

The new drive was launched by literacy coordinator James Devine. He said: “Literacy underpins absolutely everything. Improving the kids’ reading ages means they are able to understand written questions in exams, analyse different types of text and understand their meaning.

“I am so incredibly proud of all the kids and the tutors, and confident it will have a positive impact on their future education.

“I look forward to seeing what future year groups can achieve.”

Part of the success of the scheme, which is being rolled out across other year groups, has been encouraging the pupils to help run the scheme, issuing rewards to the top-performing form groups and recognising individual improvement.

Pupil Angel Moyce, 12, said: “At first I never really liked reading but I thought I would try it and I found I enjoy it. I have got more out of books in lessons now.”

Esmee Eva, 12, added; “I thought it might be a bit boring, but it wasn’t at all. It really helped improve literacy and I can understand the books I am reading better.”