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.

Continue reading “Nick Sharratt’s fun and games on Liverpool Schools Tour”

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!

Featured Poem: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod by Eugene Field

We had a wonderful time with City of Readers and Beanstalk at Anytime is Storytime across Liverpool yesterday, as part of the Read On Get On campaign. The day was a city-wide celebration of reading for pleasure for children and families, encouraging a love of books early in life. There were lots of great stories shared and lots of reading fun had on the Dazzle Ferry, at Waterstones in Liverpool One and a range of green spaces around the city, including Croxteth Hall and Walled Gardens, Isla Gladstone Conservatory at Stanley Park and the L15 Community Gardens, Garmoyle Road.

As well as the wealth of brilliant literature available, children’s poetry is also a fantastic source to encourage imagination, telling fantastical stories in a short form. This week’s Featured Poem is a classic, and will keep little ones and big kids alike entertained.

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of crystal light
Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we,”
Said Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,—
Never afraid are we!”
So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam,—
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home:
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea;
But I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:—
Wynken,
Blynken,
And Nod.

Eugene Field

To see all the fun from Anytime is Storytime, see the @LivCityReaders Twitter.

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/

City of Readers launch unique Give us 5 for reading video

On Wednesday afternoon people from across the City descended on Blackburne House for the debut screening of the Give us 5 video. Produced by Jack-All Productions, the awe-inspiring film captures a glimpse of the power of reading for pleasure beautifully.

Over the past few weeks organisations and individuals have united with City of Readers to dedicate their time to the project; Blackburne House generously donated the venue and Brian Patten kindly allowed his poem to be read, as well as those who offered their time to be featured in the video.

Prior to the showing of the video, Director of City of Readers and our Founder and Director, Dr Jane Davis emphasised the importance of the work City of Readers do in their aim to make Liverpool the foremost reading city in the UK. Laura Lewis, one of our Schools Coordinators also shared heartwarming anecdotes detailing the impact reading has had on some of the children City of Readers work with.

Last term City of Readers reached 579 school children in 17 schools and conducted 372 reading sessions. In one school staff saw 75% of pupils with poor attendance improving attendance, with 88% of pupils more willing to independently choose to read. Another school said that 79% of reading scores had gone up over the Summer, with 17% staying the same. This is fantastic as most reading scores plummet when children are away from school.

The launch was an opportunity for people to learn about this worthy project, and to discover how they can get involved. City of Readers are delighted with the passion, dedication and enthusiasm shown by attendees to the launch. Amongst those who attended were representatives from Mersey Travel, Waterstones and Baltic Creative who all generously pledged to Give City of Readers 5 for reading.

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Esteemed author Frank Cottrell Boyce has donated 5000 words to City of Readers. The final chapter will be read live at the forthcoming Penny Readings in December.

City of Readers urge everyone across Liverpool to get involved and Give us 5. So how can you pledge? Do you have 5 books that have been untouched in months? You could donate them to the City of Readers project. Or can you spare 5 minutes of your day and read to a loved one? For more ideas and details on how you can Give us 5, visit the City of Readers website here.

You can watch the Give us 5 by following this link or scrolling down to our blog post ‘Give City of Readers 5 and some exciting news at Calderstones’.

Give City of Readers 5 – and some exciting news at Calderstones

Reading is becoming big news in Liverpool as there are some exciting plans afoot to ensure that generations can engage with literature for years to come.

Our friends at City of Readers have been hard at work over the past few months gathering support from individuals and organisations across the city for their Give Us 5 campaign. Frank Cottrell Boyce, Liverpool Echo and Baltic Creative have been amongst those who have lent their support to turn Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city over the past year, and thanks to a very special campaign video even more people are on board. The brilliant Jack-All Productions have been busy putting together the video, featuring the Royal Liverpool Hospital, National Museums Liverpool, Whitefield Primary School, BBC Radio Merseyside and local poet Levi Tafari, who are all encouraging everyone around Liverpool to give 5 for reading. The video was launched at Blackburne House in Liverpool last week, along with a special CPD event with The Reader Organisation’s founder Jane Davis and Frank Cottrell Boyce giving a rundown of their favourite books to read for pleasure with children.

Take a look at the video below, and find out more about how you can get involved with giving 5 for reading on the City of Readers website: http://cityofreaders.org/

There was also some wonderful news for our continued redevelopment at Calderstones Mansion as we received funding from the Social Investment Business for The Story Barn at Calderstones. The Grade 2 listed Barn and Stable area of the Mansion will be transformed to become an interactive Story Barn, bringing literature to life and encouraging reading for pleasure amongst young people and the wider community within the heart of Calderstones. Exhibitions from children’s authors and illustrators will feature alongside a permanent interactive space which will allow children and families to explore, play and interact with literary adventures as well as the nature of the park surrounding. With our weekly shared reading groups for children already successful, the Story Barn will be an important cornerstone in continuing to create a love of reading in future generations and the creation of making Calderstones Mansion House an International Centre of Reading.

We’re proud to be part of regeneration in Liverpool alongside an initiative from Squash Nutrition which also received funding to develop Toxteth Food Central. You can read more about the fantastic news here: http://www.liverpoolexpress.co.uk/funding-secured-two-major-social-projects/

Read On, Get On: Ensuring children can ‘read well’

read on get onAs the new school year is underway, news that as many as 1.5m UK children could leave primary school unable to read adequately by 2025 makes for unsettling reading.

Findings by Save The Children have discovered that illiteracy is a significant problem amongst the UK’s schoolchildren, with disadvantged children at most risk of being unable to read well by the time they leave primary school. Nearly half of all children from poorer backgrounds cannot read and understand books, newspapers and websites at age 11, and are the equivalent of seven years schooling behind stronger readers. The report also found that England is one of the most unequal countries for levels of reading attainment amongst children in the EU, coming second only to Romania.

To go some way to tackling this crisis, Save The Children are spearheading the Read On, Get On campaign to ensure that all children are able to read well and confidently when they leave primary school. The campaign is being supported by charities, publishers and educational organisations including the National Literacy Trust, Harper Collins and the National Association of Head Teachers, as well as public figures, celebrities and authors including Sir John Major, Michael Morpurgo and Helen Fielding, emphasising the importance of reading to social mobility and the future prosperity of the nation. We’re pleased that our home of Liverpool is setting the trend when it comes to getting children of all ages reading, and even more proud that City of Readers – a city-wide initative to encourage children and young people to read more, as well as everyone else – is supporting the Read On, Get On campaign, which pledges to unlock every child’s potential in life through reading, and reading well. You can add your support here: http://www.readongeton.org.uk/petition

Children at the City of Readers Launch c. Liverpool Echo
Children at the City of Readers Launch c. Liverpool Echo

The Reader Organsation has been working closely with City of Readers, a campaign for Liverpool Learning Partnership which aims to transform Liverpool into the UK’s foremost reading city, and specifically to develop a generation of young readers who will take the power of great books into the future. Taking Liverpool as an example, City of Readers is part of the nationwide drive to ensure that the chances of children everywhere are improved by increased and deeper engagement with reading.

City of Readers is partly a response to a report by Liverpool Education Commission which aims to raise standards in schools and narrow the attainment gap between different groups of children in the city, but also encourage and enthuse the future generation to read more for the pleasure of doing so. Children who read for pleasure not only think more creatively, but also make more progress in school subjects including maths, vocabulary and spelling, according to a study by the Institute of Education.

Not only is City of Readers working with schools on a range of projects designed to especially to improve the reading of children, there are also many ways in which parents, carers and families can be involved to make reading a part of every child’s life – we know that reading in the home is a crucial way of improving reading skills. Frank Cottrell Boyce is writing an exclusive online serial as part of ‘Give Us 5’ for City of Readers – a marvellous mystery for the whole family to enjoy – and there’ll be much more happening to promote reading in Liverpool for children and everyone as the project progresses.

We’re really glad to see the issue of reading amongst children and young people is being raised on a vast public scale, and happy that Liverpool is setting the agenda for the rest of the country.

Find out more about City of Readers on the website: http://cityofreaders.org/ and for more information about getting involved with the campaign, please contact emmamelling@thereader.org.uk

You can learn more about the Read On, Get On campaign and sign the petition to ensure every child born this year will be able to read well by 2025 here: http://www.readongeton.org.uk/petition

The Menlove Treasure: Read Chapter 2 online now

menlove-treasure-front2The second chapter of Frank Cottrell Boyce’s exclusive online serial The Menlove Treasure is available to read now on the City of Readers website.

The book, written especially for City of Readers ‘Give Us 5’ campaign, is being released in monthly instalments from now until December, when the ending will be read aloud by Frank himself at this year’s Penny Readings at St George’s Hall, Liverpool.

The story so far:
On a school trip to Calderstones Park, Rylan Jennings is amazed to discover that Mrs. Crowley – the woman pretending to be his nan while his mum has disappeared – has a portrait of him: painted a hundred years before he was born. How is this possible? Who is Mrs. Crowley? and what is she doing on a school trip anyway?

Being published online is not its only special feature: the story is also accompanied by some special illustrations and animations that make the action come to life. And readers can be involved too…do you have a picture that reminds you of The Menlove Treasure? Something in the story, a piece of history or your own mysterious treasure that may be able to help Rylan in his quest? All you need to do is Instagram your pictures and videos with the tag #MLTreasure and they’ll be posted to the City of Readers website where they’ll add to the story as it unfolds.

It’s not too late to join in the adventure, as you can start from Chapter 1 on the City of Readers website. And if you’ve already begun then Chapter 2 is waiting for you! http://cityofreaders.org/online-serial/

Readers from all over the World Wide Web have already been enjoying the story:

“Wonderful cliffhanger! Definitely, I’m hooked!”

“FCB hits the spot again!”

“Loved it – can’t wait to show my 8 year old granddaughter so we can read next chapter together – I know she will be hooked just like me!”

Be part of the story – quite literally – by visiting the City of Readers website: http://cityofreaders.org/online-serial/