Church starts new Literacy Project with Stocksbridge High School
Christine Utting, the Project Leaders for Christ Church, writes…..
As lock-down began to come to an end in July this year, the Leadership team began to consider how we might move forward with our outreach work. There was a lot of media interest at the time in how the education of children had been impacted by the pandemic and in particular literacy levels.
We thought that there may be some way we could help with restorative work for these children by working with local schools.
At the same time, out of the blue, we had an email from Stocksbridge High School to say that they were planning to restock their library to include new titles in order to try and encourage reading and could we help in relation to fund raising. We took the opportunity to make contact and as well as offering some funding from generous donations made by the congregation, we began to work on a plan for a partnership reading scheme.
Volunteers were duly taken through a “Safer Recruiting “ process and some training in what we were expected to do and in October, a group of volunteers from Christ Church returned to school. On entry into Year 7, all children had their reading assessed and those who were identified as needing additional support were included in the scheme.
The listeners (our volunteers) attend one session a week and each listens to four children read over the session. We make sure they are reading correctly in terms of words and rhythm and check their comprehension. At the moment we have 2 listeners per session and the children come three times a week for a term.
Over the last 10 weeks we have supported our wonderful group of children with their reading. All our volunteers have thoroughly enjoyed working with them; learning, listening and sharing thoughts on reading, school and life in general.
Children’s books have definitely changed since our group of volunteers learnt to read and the range of topics covered has been an eyeopener. In some cases the life experience and knowledge of our volunteers has meant they have been able to give first hand insight into some of the subjects tackled in the books such as the war(well almost first hand!) and living with those with dementia or they have been able to discuss topics in more depth, for example slavery.
On the other hand, the children have given their insights into environmental issues and IT. Together we have learnt, amongst other things, about duelling, hecklers at concerts, concentration camps, “fings”, eco dens, friendships, pocket heroes, beast quests and football statistics.What a delight it has been.
It’s interesting how most don’t read outside school for a variety of reasons which means their reading would be slow to improve were they not in the scheme. It’s also sad to think that they’ve never had that pleasure of being totally immersed in a self-read story.
The scheme is being assessed by school to see what the impact is and whether it needs refining. Once we’re sure it helps, we would hope to expand to allow a greater number of children to take part.