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Schoolreaders Supporting Primary School Literacy

1 in 4 children – around 166,000 pupils every summer – leave primary school unable to read well. That is 25% of 11 year olds every year.

Our founder, Jane Whitbread, was galvanised to do something about this worrying statistic ten years ago and Schoolreaders was born.

Arguably, today, the face-to-face reading support which our volunteers provide is even more in demand than ever. It is the youngest and most disadvantaged children who have been set back the most following the Covid pandemic. Literacy levels amongst six year olds has declined to the lowest level in more than a decade, whilst, amongst disadvantaged pupils*, only half of them are able to read to the expected standard at the end of Key Stage 1 (around 8 years old) and only 62% at the end of Key Stage 2 (around 11 years old).

Children who leave primary school unable to read well will have trouble accessing their secondary education fully. If you are struggling to read, understanding science text books for example, is not going to be an easy task. Additionally, only 10% of disadvantaged children who leave primary school with their reading below the expected standard get passes in English and mathematics at GCSE. For some children, being able to read well as they start secondary education will, undoubtedly change their life story.

In our opinion, reading to a trusted adult regularly is of enormous benefit. Research indicates that early one-to-one interventions have the potential for the largest, immediate impact on attainment with its focus on high quality, adult-child interactions.

If we can crack levels of literacy in primary schools then we will go some way to reducing the number of functionally illiterate adults in the UK.

Currently there are 7.1 million, 1 in 6 of the population, who find basic tasks such as reading instructions, filling in a job application form or taking a driving theory test tricky. Furthermore, nearly 60% of all prisoners have a reading age below that of an 11 year old.

This is why our Schoolreaders volunteers are doing such a superb job by providing one-to-one reading sessions for children in primary schools nationwide - especially focusing on schools with an immediate need to support those pupils’ who have been set back. Not only do they share their love of reading but they have such a positive influence on their reading enjoyment, confidence and fluency.

One of the questions we’re often asked at Schoolreaders is why aren’t parents reading to their children every night? Figures vary but research indicates that only just over a quarter of parents of under tens read regularly to their children every evening. Sadly, children from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to be read to at home than their peers.

This can be for a myriad of reasons. Not all parents are literate themselves, some may have English as a second language and, in the height of the cost of living crisis, some are working all hours to make ends meet.

In conclusion, Schoolreaders provides a valuable charitable service to support our education system and we will continue to do all we can to help more children leave primary school able to read well.

*Disadvantaged children - ordinarily defined as: those who were registered as eligible for free school meals at any point in the last six years, children looked after by a local authority or have left local authority care in England.


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