Joe Craig is boosting children's passion for reading

The importance of reading for children aged 11 to 13 cannot be underestimated, says award-winning children's writer Joe Craig.

The creator of the prolific Jimmy Coates series, which has sold more than 250,000 copies in 12 countries, believes this is the "key
age that children need to read".

He tells People: "This is the age - school years seven and eight - when, statistically, there is the biggest drop-off in reading, particularly among boys. There are so many distractions for them and these have a real affect.

"I think that as we grow up, we understand the world through stories. It is massively importantly to ignite a passion for reading in children of this age."

He adds: "There is so much focus in schools on literacy and language but perhaps not enough on just enjoying a story. We sometimes forget this value."

A former musician, Mr Craig, 30, published his first book in 2005. Five have followed and he is due to release his next - a short thriller about pickpockets, for those aged eight to 13 - in September.

He has also written a screenplay for a Hollywood producer, and a television series based on his Jimmy Coates series is in development in America.

Mr Craig lives in London but studied philosophy at Cambridge, where he wrote and composed music for the Footlights Theatre Company.

Now, when he is not writing, he visits schools to speak to students about the importance of reading - most recently Manchester Grammar.

"I often go to Manchester. I have great support up there," he said.

    Last updated: 10:45am, February 10 2011