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Queen tells Harris of book concerns

The Queen has voiced her concerns about children being attracted to computer games and e-books rather than reading traditional paper books.

Her comments came as she presented author Joanne Harris with an MBE for services to literature.

Harris, whose books have been published in more than 40 countries, came to prominence when her 1999 novel Chocolat topped the best-seller lists in 1999.

The 2001 film version, which starred Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, brought the story of a single mother who divides opinion in a small French village when she opens a chocolate shop to an even wider audience.

Speaking after today's Buckingham Palace investiture ceremony, the writer said about the Queen: "She asked me what I thought about e-books and computer games and said that she feared that children were playing with those more than they were reading books.

"So I told her that we start them on e-books and computer games and TV and then try to get them on to books later."

Some ministers have suggested in the past that computer games and television are distracting youngsters from reading.

And research by the National Literacy Trust published earlier this year found that a majority of children preferred to read on screens rather than from books but those who used the new technology had weaker literacy skills.

Speaking about her MBE, the author said: "It's wonderful to be recognised and it's wonderful to see the world of literature be recognised every time this happens to one of us."

She added: "Books may change shape but people will always need stories, and the shape of those stories may alter. I think hard copy books are here to stay for a long time. The fact they're branching out into other areas doesn't feel threatening at all."

Also at today's ceremony, former TUC leader Sir Brendan Barber was knighted by the Queen and described the honour as recognition of the vital role unions play in society.

He spent almost a decade as general secretary of the Trades Union Congress before leaving at the end of last year, although he held several jobs over 37 years at the union organisation.

Sir Brendan worked as policy officer and headed the TUC's press and information and organisation and industrial relations departments.

He gained a reputation as a skilled negotiator, helping to resolve a number of disputes, in between finding time to watch his beloved Everton football team.

Sir Brendan said: "I've viewed the knighthood as very much recognition of the role that unions play - a hugely important part of what makes Britain work.

"We make lives better for millions of people and for that to be recognised in the honours system is appropriate."

Asked if he had now become part of the establishment, Sir Brendan laughed and said "I don't think of it in that way"m adding "trade unionism will go from strength to strength".

Sue Lloyd-Roberts, a BBC Newsnight reporter who specialises in covering human rights issues around the globe, was made a CBE by the Queen for services to journalism.

Earlier this year she was named international journalist of the year at the One World Media Awards.

Ms Lloyd-Roberts received plaudits for her reports about female genital mutilation in Egypt, ethnic violence in Burma and medical testing on India's poor.

She said: "It's good that there's a journalist here at the Palace, we've had quite a bad press recently."

The journalist said the development of small video cameras in the 1980s revolutionised her work: "It means no country can close its gates to journalists any more, any country that allows tourists in armed with a camera (that development) has helped hugely."

Lieutenant Colonel Jasper De Quincey Adams was awarded an OBE for leading 1st The Queen's Dragoon Guards in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, during 2012.

The officer, now working on force development at the Ministry of Defence, said: "I joined the Army to command soldiers pure and simple, it's the best job in the world. For the last 20 years it's also been one of the most exciting, which has been fantastic.

"In Helmand it's quite frankly astonishing how much good we've done, whether or not it will endure is up to the Afghans."


From Belfast Telegraph