We have been working with Anne Harding to help train up parent reading volunteers at the school. Anne Harding provides courses and training for children and young people, with a strong emphasis on embedding reading for pleasure and removing barriers to reading. We also provide books for a Breakfast Book Club at the school.
We asked Anne Harding to give her thoughts on the project:
Manorfield School is an extremely impressive primary school in an area of great deprivation. I felt very privileged to deliver training there for parent volunteers who have signed up to aid children with their reading, in a new scheme funded by Give a Book.
The volunteers were inspiring to work with. We had two informal training sessions a few days apart, shortly before they started working with the targeted children, all of whom struggle with reading. The aim was to ensure they had knowledge, practical tips and confidence to help them as they embarked on their new role, and to provide opportunities to share concerns and good practice. It was lovely to witness their enthusiasm, commitment, experience and insight. They contributed wonderful ideas for supporting reading, based on strategies they had used successfully in their own families.
During the first session we talked about children’s reading development and the challenges some children face. We discussed the role of the volunteers and then started to identify good ways to unlock literacy for reluctant and struggling readers and to make reading worthwhile and fun. I was delighted by the strong sense among all the participants that enjoyment is key to reading development. No one was in any doubt about the importance of reading aloud. Everyone felt that to change attitudes to reading we must not only share lovely books, but also things such as comics, recipes, catalogues, football programmes – anything that fits in with children’s individual interests and passions. We moved on to thinking about how to help children when they are reading to the volunteers. Supportive listening, patience and praise featured very highly.
In session 2 we concentrated first on enjoyable activities to enthuse children about reading. We discussed games that build skills through fun and the value of multi-sensory approaches. Many of the participants attested to the positive impact on their own children of simple things like magnetic letters, crosswords and word-searches, and using puppets and artefacts when sharing books. The school kindly provided lots of books for us to explore. This enabled us to share thoughts about the sorts of books that are likely to inspire reading – again the emphasis was on tying into individual interests – and strategies for making books special for children. Everyone wanted the children they will be working with to have easy access to attractive, inclusive books that are age-appropriate and not too difficult. I’m delighted that Give a Book is going to help make this happen.
I have no doubt at all that these excellent volunteers will make a huge difference to many children’s reading and to their attitudes to learning more widely. I can’t wait to hear about the progress of the scheme.
We look forward to seeing this project progress over the course of this year, as we find more ways to engage children and families with reading.