SCHOOLS from all over North Devon are starting to prepare for the biggest Appledore Book Festival Schools Programme ever to be staged.
For the first time in its seven-year history, the Schools Programme will be held separately to the main festival.
It will involve 19 authors visiting 34 colleges, schools and playgroups, plus Barnstaple, Bideford and Appledore libraries.
Sixty events will take place between Monday, September 16, and Friday, September 20, and organisers hope more than 2,400 students will take part.
Schools' programme joint co-ordinator Carol Smith, said: "These are staggering numbers and we're delighted so many students and children are involved.
"Our mission is to encourage the readers of the future by bringing authors into the schools to enhance reading and literacy.
"Over the years the Schools Programme has grown in both the number of the schools participating and the authors visiting the area.
"This year we plan to continue the expansion from nursery through to secondary.
"In particular, we are focusing on increasing the involvement of pre-school age children, recognising that starting young is the way to develop readers."
Those authors include Carnegie medal winner Gillian Cross, who is on the shortlist for this year's Guardian Children's fiction award. She will be talking about her latest novel After Tomorrow in schools and in a session open to the public at Barnstaple Library.
Paul Dowswell's historical novels have been highly successful and he will focus on his book Powder Monkey, which highlights the hard life of a boy in Nelson's navy.
The programme also includes several local authors.
Schools programme patron, Nick Arnold, author of the Horrible Science series and founder of the festival, said: "By introducing children to some of the best children's authors writing today, it inspires them to love reading and books and thereby creates the festival of the future."
Tickets for the main festival, which runs from September 27 to October 6, are on sale at the Book Festival's Box Office at Docton Court Gallery, 2, Myrtle Street, Appledore. You can buy tickets by phoning 01237 424949 or by logging onto www.appledorebookfestival.co.uk.