Around 120 children and young people living throughout the Derry and Strabane area were invited to a special Children In Need Reading Rooms graduation held on Derry City’s historic walls on Friday, May 10. 

Verbal’s Reading Rooms is a health and wellbeing programme that uses literary fiction to explore, in a safe space, themes like conflict resolution, resilience, problem-solving and hope. 

The new Reading Rooms graduates, were joined by a host of guests on the day including National Head of Northern Ireland at BBC Children In Need, Fionnuala Walsh, Bronagh Donnelly, locality and planning coordinator for the Western Health and Social Care Trust, as well as representatives from supporting organisations such as Derry City and Strabane District Council, among others. 

BBC’s Marie Louise Muir and BBC’s Children In Need, Pudsey, also came along on the day to help mark the occasion. 

The Junior choir from Thornhill College took to the stage to open the event which was followed by an energetic Zumba warm-up session. 

As a surprise to the young people, renowned children’s author, Michael Morpurgo, who was unable to attend the event, recorded a special video message congratulating the young people. 

The event then concluded with a special graduation ceremony. 

Following the event, Chief Executive of Verbal, James Kerr, praised the young people on their success. 

“Verbal’s Children In Need Reading Room programme is about creating resilience and improving well-being. The programme encourages children and young people to listen to others and to share their own stories and experiences with confidence because we believe that every story matters. It is also hoped that this process will strengthen relationships and inspire a genuine connection with literature. 

“I would like to take this opportunity to commend all our children and young people who graduated. They should be very proud of themselves. We hope that their experience of Reading Rooms will stay with them as the embark on their next chapter,” said Mr Kerr.