Energising a passion for reading in youngsters

Cllr Andrew Curtin with children from Newtons Primary School.

Cllr Andrew Curtin with children from Newtons Primary School. - Credit: Archant

A children’s summer reading challenge has seen the launch of a major project to tackle illiteracy in the borough.

The three-year Havering Council strategy, for both children and adults, aims to make reading enjoyable and helps people to become more confident with the English language.

It looks at how reading and writing can be improved in school and what out-of-school-activities can be provided to keep children reading during the holidays.

The first of these is the children’s Summer Reading Challenge, which includes reading six books during the holidays.

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At the end of each they visit their local library and talk through their book with a volunteer. They will be presented with a certificate after completing all the books when they return to school.

Cllr Andrew Curtin, who is a volunteer and is leading the literacy strategy, said: “Volunteers talk to children about the books they have read and it encourages the child to think and reflect when they talk about the story.

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“It is a great way to spend the summer and parents can support their children’s reading by encouraging them. Often, when there is a long period when children are not in school this can affect their learning, but this is a good way of maintaining it when they are out of school.”

The challenge is only one of the initiatives targeted at children. The library is also providing reading buddies – volunteers to support children with their school reading books; events and activities to get children to visit their local library; the schools library service; the reader development team, which visits schools in the borough to promote libraries and literacy; homework help from trained staff in the libraries and Chatterbooks Reading Groups for children aged seven to 11.

But they are keen to get parents involved too who may want to brush up their skills. Family English, maths and language courses are running in schools and children’s centres to give parents and carers the skills to support their children’s learning.

Cllr Curtin added this was vital: “For adults, low literacy can be because of experiences from school.

“To improve their literacy is not a quick fix, but it is important to improve it.

“The issue can affect children through no fault of their own, as they can be vulnerable and that shines thought to the children and they will be less likely to read to them because they are embarrassed. Reading to them is the main thing.

“The strategy is about recognising when people have problems with literacy and to make them aware that there are ways that don’t make them feel stupid.”

To help, there will be literacy classes at colleges, and the council will work with Jobcentre Plus via their employability courses.

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