We’re proud to have one of our corporate supporters be amongst the first to sign up to the Vision for Business Literacy Pledge 2016. Prinovis are one of 41 businesses pledging action to help raise literacy levels, boost the economy and improve social mobility by tackling the literacy challenge within the UK, joining other leading business signatories including Boots Opticians, Sainsbury’s and Waterstones.
Poor literacy undermines the UK’s economic competitiveness and creates barriers to a fairer society, with up to 35% of the adult population in the country’s most deprived wards lacking the skills and confidence needed to help their children with reading and writing skills. Launched by the National Literacy Forum, the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 calls on the UK business community to join the national literacy campaign and deliver tangible benefits to help close the literacy gap.
The team at Prinovis have been working closely with us in the past year, lending their support to regeneration at Calderstones Mansion and doing an amazing job of refurbishing our first sponsored Reading Room. They joined us at our AGM last month to speak about the ways in which their staff are incorporating literature into the workplace, and by committing to the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge they’ll be doing even more to raise the profile of reading for pleasure and its significance for creating strong, well-equipped workforces.
The Pledge builds on the Vision for Literacy 2025, a policy document released by the National Literacy Forum in October 2014 with cross-party support. It called on the whole of society to a play a part in raising literacy levels. The Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 provides a framework for businesses to take action to help raise literacy levels in the UK.
To find out more about the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 visit www.literacytrust.org.uk/businesspledge or download the Vision for Literacy Business Pledge 2016 brochure for the full list of the first 41 businesses to sign up.
We’re not quite in the midst of a ‘wild wood’ at our HQ in Calderstones Park, but there’s plenty of green – and increasingly frost covered – spaces to take a wander, in which we can ‘view the haunts of Nature’. If you’re in need of a spirit lift this week, why not read this poem by American poet William Cullen Bryant – known best as a nature poet – which should soon infuse you with the joys of the outside world (whilst remaining warm).
Inscription for the Entrance to a Wood
Stranger, if thou hast learned a truth which needs
No school of long experience, that the world
Is full of guilt and misery, and hast seen
Enough of all its sorrows, crimes, and cares,
To tire thee of it, enter this wild wood
And view the haunts of Nature. The calm shade
Shall bring a kindred calm, and the sweet breeze
That makes the green leaves dance, shall waft a balm
To thy sick heart. Thou wilt find nothing here
Of all that pained thee in the haunts of men
And made thee loathe thy life. The primal curse
Fell, it is true, upon the unsinning earth,
But not in vengeance. God hath yoked to guilt
Her pale tormentor, misery. Hence, these shades
Are still the abodes of gladness; the thick roof
Of green and stirring branches is alive
And musical with birds, that sing and sport
In wantonness of spirit; while below
The squirrel, with raised paws and form erect,
Chirps merrily. Throngs of insects in the shade
Try their thin wings and dance in the warm beam
That waked them into life. Even the green trees
Partake the deep contentment; as they bend
To the soft winds, the sun from the blue sky
Looks in and sheds a blessing on the scene.
Scarce less the cleft-born wild-flower seems to enjoy
Existence, than the winged plunderer
That sucks its sweets. The massy rocks themselves,
And the old and ponderous trunks of prostrate trees
That lead from knoll to knoll a causey rude
Or bridge the sunken brook, and their dark roots,
With all their earth upon them, twisting high,
Breathe fixed tranquillity. The rivulet
Sends forth glad sounds, and tripping o’er its bed
Of pebbly sands, or leaping down the rocks,
Seems, with continuous laughter, to rejoice
In its own being. Softly tread the marge,
Lest from her midway perch thou scare the wren
That dips her bill in water. The cool wind,
That stirs the stream in play, shall come to thee,
Like one that loves thee nor will let thee pass
Ungreeted, and shall give its light embrace.
William Cullen Bryant
Always a favourite to read aloud with his special liking for sprung rhythm, this week’s Featured Poem is a choice from Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins visited Inversnaid – located on the east bank of Loch Lomond in Scotland – and this poem was the product, evoking the wild and untouched wonders of nature. As Autumn turns into Winter, it’s a particularly good one to read if you’re planning any seasonal walks and adventures before the frosts set in.
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.
Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.
What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal takes place this Friday, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you spot a sudden surge of fluffy yellow bear ear-wearing individuals. Just last week, we happened to come across a VIB (very special Bear) at MediaCityUK…
Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant from Children in Need to fund our project reading with Looked After Children in Wirral. Our previous work with Looked After Children across Merseyside has shown how reading for pleasure can bring a variety of benefits, not least in creating a safe environment in which young people can engage with literature that relates to them.
“I love this, I want it to go on forever” – a Looked After Child reading with us as part of our pilot project
By reading one-on-one with a project worker or volunteer in a familiar setting, children are able to expand their imaginations and discover new possibilities. Not only does our shared reading approach encourage a love for reading for the sheer fun of doing so, but also allows young people to reflect on the experiences of the characters they encounter, stimulating a greater sense of empathy and understanding. Making children excited about books in their own space often gives the incentive of wanting to read more, and so we’ve found that confidence with literacy increases, as does general self-esteem.
For some children, reading can offer a support unavailable elsewhere – a way of getting to grips with their emotions and providing a safe domain through which their voice can be heard, and in some cases found. The connection between reading and wellbeing allows for a retreat from the stresses of everyday life and an escape into another world. This was true for Liam, who took part in one of our previous projects:
“The support of reading together was apparent another week, when Liam looked like he’d been crying and his carer said he had not had a good day in school. He did not want to talk to me about it, but he did feel like reading. We got absorbed in the story together, and by the end he looked much happier. I asked him if he felt better than before the session and he said he did, which was very rewarding.”
Over the next three years, we’ll be able to create more of these reading experiences for over 100 young people aged between 5-15 on the Wirral thanks to the funding received by Children in Need. We’ve already started to recruit volunteers who will be matched with a child for one-to-one reading sessions in foster and care homes. After six months, young people will be able to continue by taking part in group sessions with their peers, encouraging friendships to be formed as well as their love of reading to grow.
Read more of our Reader Stories from Looked After Children in some of our previous projects:
This week’s Featured Poem comes from Thomas Hardy, a deeply moving and emotional piece and one of the elegy poems Hardy composed after the death of his first wife Emma in 1912 – a previous Featured Poem, The Voice, is another one of these, and it is quite clear to see how they follow in the same vein.
The references to light and darkness, as well as the repeated questions to the departed Emma, all speak of a feeling of despair, but it is perhaps the words that evoke many different incarnations of a sense of something as fleeting – ‘one glimpse‘, ‘the softest call’, ‘think for a breath‘ – that are most poignant and most regrettable.
In issue 59 of The Reader – previewed here yesterday – Philip Davis writes on another of Hardy’s elegy poems, The Shadow on the Stone. In his discussion, he finds what can often be at the root of the realisation inherent in shared reading for people experiencing difficulties:
“Most literature is made out of what is lost, missing, created from trouble, in need of a help that often does not come.”
Where creation comes, it follows that understanding – or a sense of it – will too.
Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
You would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!
Never to bid good-bye
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.
Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!
You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny Crest,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.
Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time’s renewal? We might have said,
“In this bright spring weather
We’ll visit together
Those places that once we visited.”
Well, well! All’s past amend,
Unchangeable. It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon. . . . O you could not know
That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing–
Not even I–would undo me so!