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.
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:
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.”
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