Camilla urges children to put aside their technology and read at Palace reception

The Duchess of Cornwall this morning hosted a reception at St James’s Palace for children that competed in DJ Chris Evans’ ‘500 Words’ short story competition.

Camilla, patron of a number of literacy charities, held the winners’ reception at the Palace and invited famous voices like Sir Kenneth Branagh, Charles Dance, Jeremy Irons and Sally Hawkins, to read out the winning entries.

The ‘500 Words’ competition is now in its fifth year, being the brainchild of Chris Evans. This year, the competition received a whopping 120,421 entries, which were judged by a panel including TV personality, Richard Hammond, and author Malorie Blackman.

The Duchess also gave a speech, urging youngsters to put aside their technology devices to enjoy the escapism of reading.

‘Like climbing through the wardrobe into Narnia, stories open doors into different worlds. They stretch imagination and get our brains buzzing. We fall in love with heroes and heroines and can’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens. We meet impossible people, travel to remote places and make hundreds of new friends.’

She also said on a broadcast on BBC R2 yesterday:

‘We all have our own favourites that we could read over and over again. For me, they were the stories my father read to me: wide-eyed Alice finding herself in Wonderland; the fearless Scarlet Pimpernel deep in the dungeons of the Bastille and Oliver Twist daring to ask for more gruel.’

‘I tell everyone that we must never forget how important reading and storytelling is.

‘Close to home, everyone has family stories — about our parents when they were naughty children; about grandparents living in a different world, without smartphones or YouTube; about families moving home, moving countries and making new stories of their own.’

Two categories had three winners each, in the brackets ages five to nine and ages ten to thirteen, and winners were announced at St James’s this morning.

10-13 years catergory:

Gold medal: Amabel Smith (aged 10) with ‘It’s A Wide World’

Silver  medal: Hannah Sennouni (aged 12) with ‘Londoner Pigeon’

Bronze medal: Lara Akhurst (aged 11) with ‘Blue’

5-9 years category:

Gold  medal: Sofia Zambuto (aged 9) with ‘Fight For Life’

Silver medal: Robyn Fielding (aged 8) with ‘The Word That Wouldn’t Come Out’

Bronze medal: Emily Potts (aged 9) with ‘Cake Wars’

The Gold Medal winner of each category won Chris Evans’ height – 6ft 2in – in books, plus 500 books for their school library. Second place, or the Silver Medal winner, received Alex Jones’ height in books, which is 5ft 6in of books; the Bronze Medal winner took home a stack of books matching their own height. All winners also received a bound copy of their short story made by Royal bookbinders.

Will Smith and The Vamps performed at the reception too.

Jeremy Irons, who read the winning entry ‘It’s A Wide World’, said: ‘I think this is such a wonderful initiative. It’s what we, as actors, we feed on, because we need stories. I want stories to read, I want stories to act — to turn into films, to turn into plays.’

Feature photo: UK in Spain

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