We live in a wealthy country, in a capital city full of opportunities, so how is it possible that a child can still be a struggling reader when they leave primary school? How can some children leave secondary school unable to read? Why does a charity like Learn to Love to Read need to exist?
Last year, 24% of children left primary schools in Wandsworth unable to read at the expected levels set by the Government. That is nearly one in four. Perhaps even more shocking is that more than 380,000 children in the UK don’t own a single book.
You won’t be surprised to hear the impact this has on a person’s aspirations and opportunities. Adults with poor literacy skills are more likely to be unemployed or in low-paid jobs. There is a link between low levels of literacy and shorter life expectancy, depression and obesity. Children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England. According to the Shannon Trust, 50% of UK prisoners have a reading level so low they would struggle to find employment.
All the evidence, the research and the experience shows that you can’t wait until adulthood to address poor literacy. We know that the earlier you intervene to provide support the more likely you are to have a long-lasting impact. We also know that there are many charities doing brilliant work addressing poor levels of literacy and trying to get more books into homes. We work alongside them and are so grateful for their support.
So why Learn to Love to Read – what makes us different and what are we doing to get closer to our vision of “every child a reader” here in Wandsworth?
Learn to Love to Read is firmly rooted in our local community; committed to long-term relationships with schools, volunteers and the families we serve; and ambitious for the children we work with. We measure our impact and we are making a difference. Our focus on intervening early through our toddler classes is helping children start school more confident and ready to learn to read. Our parent training is encouraging and equipping parents to provide the home learning support that is so vital if a child is to succeed. And when a child needs some extra reading help in the early stages of school, our trained volunteers are ready to step in and provide one-to-one support for up to two years.
The result is perhaps best summed up one of our parents, whose son received one-to-one volunteer support and whose daughter attended our toddler classes. She says “‘They helped my son a lot. He had no confidence, he found it hard but Learn to Love to Read changed all that. I am so happy. He wants to buy books! When we go out he says: ‘Mummy, you are in H&M, let me go to Waterstones!’
With my son, nobody helped me with reading. So I took my daughter to the toddler class when she was 9 months old. I learn, she learns, we learn together. We learn to love to read.
When she went to school, she knew what to do. She fits. She says: ‘Let me read, let me tell the story. I can read it!’ Even when I tell her something she says: ‘Ssh mummy, I’m reading’. That comes from Learn to Love to Read. We are glad. We are so blessed.’
It's World Book Day this week and schools will be doing a brilliant job organising author visits, creating extra time for reading and introducing children to new books, authors and genres with the hope that they might inspire an ongoing interest in reading. But if we want every child to be a reader we need to make learning to read, reading for pleasure, and all the benefits that brings, an everyday activity, every week of the year.
If you’d like to help us make every child a reader here in Wandsworth, do get in touch via our website www.learn2love2read.org.uk