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

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