Nick Sharratt’s fun and games on Liverpool Schools Tour

The Reader were thrilled to welcome Nick Sharratt to Liverpool on the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour. Natalie, Neil and Laragh joined the fun at Stockton Wood Primary School.

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We’re Going On a Bear Hunt with The Storybarn!

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The Storybarn bring Michael Rosen’s interactive experience Bear Hunt, Chocolate Cake & Bad Things to the heart of Liverpool.

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“What is your idea of perfect happiness?’ : David Bowie’s Reading List

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Inspired by Frank Cottrell-Boyce’s lecture on David Bowie’s Reading List, Lauren reflects on the joy to be found in books, music and Shared Reading. 
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The Hidden Treasure within Liverpool Central Library

panoramicWith Liverpool Literary Festival soon approaching, our Intern Lauren thought she’d get herself into the bibliophile festive spirit and take her first ever trip to Liverpool Central Library… and what a lovely morning it truly was.

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The Story Box Breakfast – celebrating our Nurseries project

By Vish Amarasinghe, Communications Intern

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The Lord Mayor of Liverpool reads to the young readers from our Nurseries project

Today marks a week since The Reader celebrated its fruitful shared reading project across nurseries in Liverpool. For the past nine months, we have worked with 37 city nurseries to deliver shared reading groups, encouraging parents and their children to enjoy books and reading for pleasure in a fun, relaxed and friendly environment at a crucial stage in Early Years development. Outcomes of the project have been felt by all involved; parents have gained confidence to read aloud with their children, nursery practitioners have developed their skills in reading aloud with children, and our young readers have enjoyed some brilliant stories.

The Story Box celebration took place at the Walker Art Gallery on Thursday 8th October. Children, parents and staff from three Liverpool nurseries were in attendance, as well as very special guests the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool!

We estimate we have reached over 500 children and 100 carers through the project, while providing training to over 50 nursery practitioners. 96% of participating parents surveyed from January to May 2015 agree that they are now more confident in reading aloud to their children, and that they know more about the value of reading regularly with their children.

The project is part of the City of Readers campaign, which aims to transform Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city starting with the youngest readers to encourage a love of reading that will last through their lifetime. One of our project workers told us about the impact of the project on the two-year olds involved and their families:

‘A little boy who hadn’t shown any interest in reading, came over to a reader and handed a book to her to read, joining in with the book and pointing at the pictures. The nursery staff took a photograph and presented this to his Mum, who cried with happiness when she saw it because she had never seen him sat with a book before!’

Young readers meet the Storytime Penguin
Young readers meet the Story Time Penguin

We celebrated with pastries, cake, and balloons, and the highlight of it all was a special shared reading session. The Lord Mayor himself led the reading from Shh, We Have A Plan!, the superbly illustrated children’s book by Chris Haughton, to the children’s delight. Our project workers, who have been working hard across the city these past nine months, also led reading and songs. The children were entranced by the stories that were shared, and their engagement was a real testament to the success of the project.

Our Story Time Penguin mascot was a big hit with the kids, who were thrilled when they received high fives from him and when he joined in the songs and dancing, before helping the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress give out Story Time boxes filled with books, a blanket and a special penguin puppet for each nursery.

Neil Mahoney, coordinator of the Nurseries Project, told us how the end of the project is in fact the beginning of a new chapter:

“We’re delighted that not only did the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress celebrate the success of the nurseries project with us, but that the event launched our distribution of 300 Story Time Boxes in the coming weeks to participating nurseries across the city – boxes containing more than 2,000 books in total! We hope through this legacy that Story Times will continue to encourage reading for pleasure among young children and help give them the best start in life.”

The Storyboxes handed out by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool, assisted by the Storytime Penguin
The Storyboxes handed out by the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Liverpool, assisted by the Story Time Penguin

The event was a fantastic celebration of the Nurseries Project and of all the hard work that had gone in to it. Thank you to everyone who came along!

Learn more about the impacts of our projects with children and young people, including sharing stories in Early Years, on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/what-we-do-and-why/education-young-people

Finding a way into reading: Alan’s Story

In the run-up to the publication of The Reader’s Annual Report 2014/15, here’s another highlight from our shared reading activity in the past year. 

Our shared reading projects with children and young people focus entirely on reading for pleasure. Even in school settings, stories are shared in an informal, interactive and engaging way to encourage an enthusiasm for reading. Alan is one of our young readers at a primary school in Liverpool, where we have been working in partnership with City of Readers.

Alan, along with twenty other year 3 and 4 pupils, attended the first shared reading session which we ran at a local primary school as part of the Reading Revolutionaries Roadshow. As the group were new to the training course and shared reading model we explained that if students felt too shy or anxious to ask any questions out loud, they could write their questions on a post it note, in which we would address and respond to after the morning break.

We read Oh No George! by Chris Haughton and a lively discussion ensued with lots of the pupils relaying stories about their naughty pets. The group were totally engrossed and all participated in shouting out ‘OH NO GEORGE!’

One group member stated:

“It’s hard when you’re told not to do something though, because it makes you want to do it even more. Like George…I bet he wasn’t even thinking about eating the cake or the playing in the mud, but as soon as he’s told to ‘be good!’ they’re his first thoughts. I’m like that too…like George…as soon as I’m told I ‘can’t’ that’s when I ‘want’.”

After we finished reading, Alan, who had been mostly quiet for the duration, approached me and stated that he had made a mistake with his question on his Post It note and needed to ‘fix it’. We went through the notes until we found his Post It which read ‘I don’t read anything’. He took his note and came up to me around ten minutes later with a new submission which read ‘Did George go in the bin or not? Would George be good next time or not?’

In one twenty minute shared reading session Alan had transformed from a self defined ‘non reader’ to an inquisitive and interested literary thinker.

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Alan’s amended Post It note after reading Oh No George!

The latest from Calderstones Mansion – including the story of the Storybarn

Jane in the refurbished Prinovis Reading Room (credit: Shirley Bateman)
Jane in the refurbished Prinovis Reading Room (credit: Shirley Bateman)

There’s been a lot going on at Calderstones Mansion in the last few months – with lots of help from the hardworking and generous team at Prinovis, we’ve been able to open our first refurbished Reading Room to enable our group members to enjoy weekly sessions even more, and the summer has seen a number of outdoor productions stop off at the Garden Theatre, including shows from Illyria, MATE Productions and three sell-out performances of Romeo and Juliet from The Globe On Tour, with not even a spot or two of rain enough to dampen proceedings.

We are creating an International Centre for Reading at Calderstones, so it’s fitting that we could welcome a special visitor from the other side of the world earlier this month. Shirley Bateman, Reader Development Team Leader from Melbourne Library Service came to The Reader HQ as part of her tour of literary projects around the UK and Ireland. As well as hearing all about the City of Readers campaign, Jane took Shirley on a tour of Calderstones, including the amazing Prinovis Reading Room. You can read more about the visit on Shirley’s blog: https://shirleybateman.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/more-famous-than-the-beatles/

More exciting news is just around the corner…development of the Storybarn, the North West’s first interactive story centre for children and families, is taking shape outside HQ as we type, and we’re looking forward to welcoming visitors from far and wide when it opens this Autumn. The Storybarn has been made possible thanks to funding from the Social Investment Business and their Liverpool City Region Impact Fund – our Head of Facilities Craig spoke to SIB about the plans for the Storybarn and how it will encourage imagination and a love of reading in future generations:

Keep up to date with all of the latest at the Mansion House on the Calderstones section of our website, and by following @CaldiesMansion on Twitter – where you can see the newest, very exciting installation to the Storybarn, tested by our Storybarn Developer Holly and Jane herself!

Liverpool takes the lead in Early Years reading intervention

A child at a ‘Tiny Reads’ shared reading group, hosted by The Reader Organisation at Calderstones Park
A child at a ‘Tiny Reads’ shared reading group, hosted by The Reader Organisation at Calderstones Park

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.

A project worker from The Reader Organisation delivering to a nursery as part of the PVI programme
A project worker from The Reader Organisation delivering to a nursery as part of the PVI programme

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:

British Picture Vocab Scale Graph

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.”

Nicolette Jones and Frank Cottrell Boyce discuss today’s ‘golden age’ of children’s books at The Reader Organisation’s headquarters
Nicolette Jones and Frank Cottrell Boyce discuss today’s ‘golden age’ of children’s books at The Reader Organisation’s headquarters

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

Seasons Readings!

Christmas spirit is filling the TRO offices at the moment as we get ready to wrap up for the holiday – not before the Ha’Penny and Penny Readings, of course.

This afternoon sees our staff Christmas party at Head Office in Calderstones Mansion House, but we’ve already been getting into the festive mood by celebrating with our Readers and volunteers in Liverpool, London and Wirral over the last few weeks. We can safely say that a very merry time was had by all at each of the parties, combining two quintessentially Readerly pastimes – reading and food – in copious amounts, and we’d like to say a big thank you to everyone involved in arranging and who came along to our Christmas celebrations around the country.

Below are a few pictures from our Christmas party in Wirral, which took place at Birkenhead Central Library last week.

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Of course the festive season is the perfect time for catching up on reading, and our Readers may be interested to know about a special city-wide reading project that is happening over Christmas. City of Readers and BBC Radio Merseyside are reading Private Peaceful by Michael Morpurgo, and on Friday 16th January at 1pm the book will be discussed on a live phone-in segment on BBC Radio Merseyside. If you’ve ever wanted to appear on the radio and share your views about a great piece of literature to a regional audience, now’s your chance! All you need to do is read the book over the Christmas period – copies are available in libraries across Liverpool – and tune in on 16th January to enjoy a great read together with the rest of the city.

To find out more about the City of Readers aim to get Liverpool reading for pleasure, visit their website: http://cityofreaders.org/