Every year, almost 148,000 children leave primary school in England unable to read well – including one third of all children growing up in poverty according to a report released by Save the Children as part of their Read On Get On Campaign.
Ready to Read calls on national government for ‘a decisive shift towards early action and investment to help address one of the country’s most pressing challenges – entrenched educational underachievement’.
However the report’s findings demonstrate that the root of this issue stems from a child’s pre-school years:
- A child with weak language skills at the age of five is much less likely to be a strong reader at the age of 11
- In England, almost one child in four (23%) does not meet the expected level of language development by the age of five
- Children living in poverty face a much greater risk of falling behind – one in three (35%) does not have the language skills expected of a five-year-old
[Ready to Read, 2015]
Due to the impact of Early Years speech and language development on life chances, the report states that in order to fulfil the primary aim of the Read On Get On campaign – that every child in England can read well by the age of 11 by 2025 – an interim goal is needed: that every five-year-old in England should have good language skills by 2020.
However in the midst of calls for national focus and investment in Early Years, Save the Children recognises that this challenge is not Westminster’s alone. It also requires the coordination of local services, organisations and families to address reading standards – an area in which Liverpool is already leading the way through its city-wide campaign City of Readers, joint-funded by Liverpool City Council and Liverpool Learning Partnership, and delivered by The Reader Organisation.
The success of previous projects The Reader Organisation has delivered with children and young people in schools and other educational settings, including a three year transition project reading with deprived school pupils in Glasgow, have left us well-placed to replicate our efforts in Early Years Development. The graph below shows the improvement in reading and language skills of the children in one of our shared reading groups within the space of six months, when beforehand the same children had little interest in reading for pleasure:
Taking the initiative in 2012 to lay the foundations for future prosperity and skills growth, Mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson instigated a 12-month commission into the city’s education system, led by former education secretary Estelle Morris. The Mayor saw a link between improving reading standards for children and reducing the number of NEETs (young people not in education, employment or training). The commissioned report From Better to Best was published in July 2013 and the City of Readers campaign was formed in order to develop a new generation of readers in Liverpool.
Since then, the Liverpool Learning Partnership initiative City of Readers has been promoting opportunities for families to help their children’s language and speech development, through projects including the PVI programme commissioned by Liverpool City Council’s Childcare and Family Information Service (CAFIS).
In the PVI programme, The Reader Organisation works with nurseries from the Private, Voluntary and Independent sector to deliver shared reading groups across Liverpool, for two-year olds and their parents and carers.This access to free early education also represents opportunities for family bonding and fostering reading pleasure.
Jan Gallagher, Principal Officer at CAFIS, spoke of how the PVI project has been received so far:
“Although still in the early stages of the programme, early indications are very positive, and feedback from nursery staff and parents is suggesting the benefits for the future, and the enjoyment of those families involved.”
In another initiative to encourage families to read together, City of Readers recently hosted a free event with the Sunday Times Children’s Book Editor Nicolette Jones and award-winning writer Frank Cottrell Boyce at The Reader Organisation’s headquarters in Calderstones Park. This event, ‘Turning Pages Together: a celebration of children’s literature’ saw both author and critic highlight their rich experience of the best in children’s literature to the community, just one of many events that the City of Readers campaign will be offering across the city to make reading for pleasure more accessible and achievable.
Nicolette Jones praised the foresight of Liverpool City Council in its efforts through City of Readers to raise the profile of reading in the city as a whole – celebrating the enjoyment of reading in all our communities:
“I am delighted that Liverpool City Council has been so enlightened as to encourage the exemplary Reader Organisation, which has found effective ways of making children and adults love books, and has allowed them to make Calderstones Mansion the hub of this joyous activity, as well as enabling their outreach into nurseries, homes, schools and other institutions.
The world is going to be a better place, starting in Liverpool.”
Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson reinforces that a wider culture of reading needs to be embraced in order to increase children’s literacy development:
“I want to thank everyone who’s been engaged in the City of Readers programmes, but I also want families to be engaged… I want your grandparents, uncles, aunties, mums and dads… to help work with our young kids to make sure that they’re able to read and if we do that I’m sure our city will have a better future in terms of educational standards”.
City of Readers recently produced a short video highlighting their work with early years’ children and parents, giving an opportunity to hear directly from those involved with their PVI programme and the benefits they have experienced. You can watch the video here or by taking a look below (with special thanks to Insight Moving Images):
On August 10th City of Readers will be supporting the Read On Get On national Storytime Starters event with Beanstalk. The city-wide celebration of reading will see storytellers from both organisations offering free storytime sessions across several parks and green spaces in the city.
Find out more information about this event and where your nearest story time session will be as well as more on the City of Readers campaign at: www.cityofreaders.org
It seems like the weather will take a turn for the better this week, and this particular poem by William Wordsworth is a great one to read to compliment the summer days – even if you can’t make it to a beach and go shell-hunting, it’s bound to bring back fond memories of ‘sonorous cadences’ and more besides.
Wordsworth is a popular choice amongst our shared reading groups, with members commenting that ‘there is something about Wordsworth!’. We would definitely have to agree, and this poem speaks to that notion loud and clear.
The Sea Shell
A curious child, who dwelt upon a tract
Of inland ground, applying to his ear
The convolutions of a smooth-lipped shell;
To which, in silence hushed, his very soul
Listened intensely; and his countenance soon
Brightened with joy; for murmurings from within
Were heard, sonorous cadences! whereby
To his belief, the monitor expressed
Mysterious union with his native sea.
Even in such a shell the Universe itself
Is to the ear of Faith: and there are times,
I doubt not, when to you it doth impart
Authentic tidings of invisible things;
Of ebb and flow and ever-during power;
And central peace, subsisting at the heart
Of endless agitation.
Lovers everywhere pay heed – The Globe on Tour’s production of Romeo and Juliet is around the corner, with just over a month to go until Shakespeare’s most famous and most tragic lovers arrive to take the stage in Liverpool at Calderstones Mansion House.
So far the cast have brought the show far and wide since they opened at Theatre Clywd in Wales, from Austria to Norway to the Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina. They find themselves back on home soil in Stoke-on-Trent this week, and we’re hoping the sun will keep shining to recreate the beautiful scenes seen from their performances at the Brighton Festival in May.
If you’re yearning to know more, The Globe on Tour has lots of goodies on their website, including video trailers and interviews with Sam Valentine (Romeo) and Cassie Layton (Juliet). Sam was also quizzed on Twitter in a special #AskRomeo Q&A recently – no need to fear about missing out, as all of the questions and answers, featuring exclusive pictures of the cast on their travels, have been compiled in this handy Storify: sfy.co/q0Yxx
Romeo and Juliet will be at the Garden Theatre at Calderstones Mansion House on Friday 24th and Saturday 25th July (matinee and evening performances on Saturday 25th). Tickets cost £20 and can be booked from The Globe’s website or by calling The Globe Box Office on 020 7401 9919.
To keep up to date with Romeo and Juliet on their travels, follow @GlobeOnTour
The season of Summer is officially here, and we’re hoping we’ll get to spend more time out of doors enjoying the sunshine in the next couple of months, especially at our HQ in the gorgeous Calderstones Park. On a summer’s day there are lots of sights and sounds to be heard – particularly birds chirping, dogs barking and the happy shouts of children, but what are the other typical sounds of summer: an ice cream van chiming in the distance, water splashing (hopefully not from the rain)? Perhaps even the sound of silence as you seek a peaceful getaway.
This week we’re keeping our ears out for these pleasant sounds, and we think this poem from John Clare might just help.
The rustling of leaves under the feet in woods and under hedges;
The crumpling of cat-ice and snow down wood-rides, narrow lanes, and every street causeway;
Rustling through a wood or rather rushing, while the wind halloos in the oak-toop like thunder;
The rustle of birds’ wings startled from their nests or flying unseen into the bushes;
The whizzing of larger birds overhead in a wood, such as crows, puddocks, buzzards;
The trample of robins and woodlarks on the brown leaves, and the patter of squirrels on the green moss;
The fall of an acorn on the ground, the pattering of nuts on the hazel branches as they fall from ripeness;
The flirt of the groundlark’s wing from the stubbles- how sweet such pictures on dewy mornings, when the dew flashes from its brown feathers.
A very special royal guest has returned to share some reading with us…
Last month Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall became patron of the Foundation Years Trust, a trust aimed at providing an early years intervention for children and families most at risk from the effects of poverty. The Reader Organisation works with Foundation Years Trust as part of the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project, supporting families through pregnancy to when children start full-time at school. Alongside other initiatives, we provide Read It Together groups for parents and children to enjoy stories together and develop a love of reading that will contribute towards a child’s learning and increased development.
As part of the recent Royal visit to Merseyside with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Duchess made a visit to Manor Primary School in Birkenhead where initiatives from the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project are taking place. After a visit to the Bump-Start group, the Duchess spent time at our Read It Together group for parents, carers and children aged 0-5 at Manor Children’s Centre, along with Frank Field MP, Chair of Foundation Years Trust and Zoe Munby, Director of the Birkenhead Foundation Years Project.
The group has been running weekly every Thursday afternoon since September 2014, letting children discover reading with their parents and carers through story and rhyme sessions. As children spend time with play workers, adults get the time to read together for themselves in a relaxed space, encouraging reading to continue amongst the family.
Amanda Boston, our Reader in Residence at Birkenhead Foundation Years Project, led the group in reading Owl Babies by Martin Waddell along with some songs. Following the children’s group, the Duchess joined in the adjoining 10 minute session especially for the adult members to read and discuss One Another’s Light by Brian Patten. As an avid reader and supporter of literacy it was wonderful that the Duchess could take part in the shared reading experience.
It’s not the Duchess’s first time finding out about shared reading – in July last year she dropped into one of our groups for people living with dementia while officially reopening Exeter Library. We feel like a Royal Reading Revolution could be about to take place…