There was a fascinating article in The Times last week (14.11.22) entitled 'Illiteracy is not inconvenient but deadly' by Tomiwa Owolade which sparked a number of further stories and letters to the paper.
Tomiwa's article highlighted the fact that 'only half of children read daily outside school' whilst data from the Department of Education showed that only half (51%) of disadvantaged students have reached the expected level for reading this year - surely a symptom of the Covid lockdowns.
The article argued for 'schools, families, local communities, the government and children themselves to work together to target this issue. More investment in school services and staff; a culture of reading encouraged across all areas of civil society; parents reading to their kids at home.'
With 1 in 4 children leaving school unable to read to the required standard, at Schoolreaders we are passionate about doing what we can to help more children learn to read well. We are committed to reaching the most disadvantaged children to ensure they have the opportunity to improve their reading which is why we are working with more primary schools who have the greatest need for reading volunteers. Last year 53% of our volunteers were placed in schools which feature in the bottom 20% of multiple deprivation index.
This approach is much needed. A headteacher at a primary school in an ex-mining village told us recently, "There is quite a high level of deprivation here. We have a mix of parents. Some of which are not able to support their children to read and others who just don’t know how to. It may be because they can’t read themselves. Other parents might be working every hour to bring money in so just don’t have the time to listen at home. Covid has also exacerbated the situation as obviously during the pandemic children couldn’t take books home and it was difficult teaching online. Reading virtually to an adult is very difficult.
“In more affluent areas even just 2-4 miles down the road they don’t have the same problems. I know that parents there have to buy books on behalf of the school and are told they must read to their children five times a week. They are even asked to send money in for books and they do. Time and people power is key to reading development."
We responded to Tomiwa's article with a letter by our Chair of Trustees, Jane Whitbread, who emphasised how Schoolreaders has been helping. She wrote to say 'This week 11,630 children will receive personal reading support from a Schoolreaders volunteer in 690 primary schools across the country. It is a free service for schools, because of the selfless work of our volunteers.
'They do so because they get so much out of it, as do those they read to as well as schools, local communities and society at large.'
On the back of this, and a further article on the subject of illiteracy and what the public can do to help, we were delighted to be contacted by new volunteers from across the nation keen to volunteer to support the nation's primary school children. We now have volunteers in all but two of England's 48 counties.
All our volunteering is conducted face-to-face in primary schools which we believe is the best method for securing improvements in reading and is echoed by our partner schools. In our last State of Reading Survey, 99% told us that in-person support over digital/remote support was the best way to support their pupils.
If you are interested in volunteering with Schoolreaders to help us provide more weekly face-to-face reading sessions to primary school children who require the most support, we'd love to hear from you. Find out more here.