Santa Dash: The reason why we’re running

With the big event this Sunday (well – two big events – how can we possibly overlook the Penny Readings?), the Reds and Blues are in the last lap of their intensive training . Never mind twelve drummers drumming  – though we’re sure there’ll be much beating of drums once they race over the finishing line in record time – it’s all about the twelve TRO Santas dashing across the centre of Liverpool.

Getting in some last minute training

All of the training, blood, sweat and (hopefully not too many) tears is in aid of helping to continue to support the looked-after children we read with and in particular, to give them a wonderful adventure holiday to remember. Our final Santa Dash 2011 report comes from Young Person’s Project Worker and member of the Blue team Anna, who explains the reasons why our Red and Blue Santas are taking part:

I am a project worker in Liverpool on the Looked After Children project. I read one to one with 10 young people aged between 8 and 16 in their various foster placements.

They can be a tough crowd. Many have very poor concentration, and find sitting and listening to a story for 5 minutes (let alone an hour) a challenge. They often also have low self esteem. This lack of confidence means many are unwilling to read aloud and find it difficult to open up and chat about what we’re reading according to the GIR model. Control is also an issue, as every carer tells me. Looked-after children have never had any control over the biggest, most distressing aspects of their life (such as who they can live with), and as a result many try to control the smallest of things to compensate. In a one-to-one reading session this can be particularly difficult if the young person has little interest in reading! Along with all of this, every young person has many complicated psychological and emotional difficulties flying around their heads that they need to learn to understand and cope with. Behaviourally this can be presented with anxiety, aggression, being withdrawn or hyper-active.

With all of this it is understandable that school and relationships with friends and family can be extremely hard for these young people to manage.

I feel really privileged to be able to work with the young people I meet in such a positive way. Whilst it can be very tough to get them to engage with the reading session, it is wonderful to be able to value every contribution they make. By placing no pressure on each young person, gradually they respond to the sessions with more enthusiasm and interest. As a one-to-one session, it gives them the chance to pursue their individual interests and develop their own approach to understanding and enjoying stories and poetry.

It is wonderful when the moment happens, and the young person ‘discovers’ reading. This has taken anything between 2 weeks and 6 months! The 6 month-er, a girl aged 12, was always very reluctant. “I don’t want to read today, can we finish early?” This question was asked every week without fail! When we started The Invention of Hugo Cabret she was really surprised how much she liked it: “Can we keep reading? I’m not usually like this but this book’s very interesting!” We are now reading Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Every week she is fascinated, excited to start the story, asks lots of interesting questions (ranging from space, to God to history) and is upset when it is time to end, “Oh no! Can you read a bit more please please?!”

This chance to bring young people out of themselves, to help them develop their interests and explore imaginatively the world we live in through the world of reading is so much fun. Many of the young people have such limited aspirations, so helping them to see the world beyond their experience is immensely important.

TRO Santas: Running to support looked-after children

The work we do with looked-after children is so important and to give them a special holiday will be wonderful. It’s only with your help that we can raise funds and make it happen. Please donate what you can by visiting our online fundraising page – everything, no matter how big or small, will make a huge difference.

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