Helping children learn to read
Reading is a skill many of us take for granted. However, a staggering one in four children in London leave primary school at age 11 unable to read and write properly – 5% can hardly read at all, and in inner city schools, 40% leave primary school with the reading age of a six to nine-year-old.
We have been working with the Reading Partners scheme as part of Tower Hamlets Education Business Partnership since early 2012. Once a week, a group of volunteers from the firm make the short walk to Whitechapel to help the children of St Paul's CE Primary School improve their literacy with fantastic results, reflected in both the children's improved reading capabilities as well as their social skills.
We also support the school in other ways, including sponsoring and judging their poetry competitions, distributing presents at Christmas and inviting the children to join us for lunch at our offices so they can learn what their reading partners do for a living.
We are very proud that St Paul’s CE Primary School was credited as outstanding by Ofsted earlier this year, with the Ofsted report praising the Reading Partners scheme in particular. The school inspectors reported that the pupils' attitudes to learning are first class and we agree.
The children seem to enjoy their reading sessions. One, aged 8, said: "I like reading about princesses and castles with my reading partner – she's also a really good drawer and she draws me pictures to colour in."
Another said: "I think I'm getting better because I practise with my reading partner. I like books with interesting pictures."
Both children and reading partners look forward to their Tuesday lunchtime reading sessions. Given the startling figures relating to literacy in London, being able to get involved and give something back to the community is very fulfilling and an easy way to really make a difference.