Veteran actress Sheila Hancock has signed up as the public face of a scheme to boost literacy rates among British schoolchildren.

The stage and screen star has been named as the official patron of DigiSmart, a program of weekly lessons for kids aged nine and 10 to improve their reading, writing and speaking skills.

Hancock says, "I've just launched a thing called DigiSmart, which is a wonderful web-based thing to get children who are failing (academically) into reading and enjoying books and things. I know that the pressures on education at the moment are exams... and we are not teaching them the joy of creativity and the joy of books."