By E. Kate Marsden
Huddersfield Literature Festival is delighted to be teaming up with Reading Matters, a locally based charity and social enterprise dedicated to improving reading skills for all ages and backgrounds.
So, what does Reading Matters do exactly?
Chief Executive Rachel Kelly explains: “As far as we are concerned, the more people reading, the better. We have different programmes to help others including a mentoring scheme, whereby we recruit and train volunteers from the community and place them in schools across West and South Yorkshire. The Reading Mentors attend the school twice a week for an hour each time, spending half an hour with one child and half an hour with another. They stay with the same kids for each term.”
Raising children’s reading ages
“The results in a 10-week term, with 10 hours support, are on average that the reading age of the child is raised by 13 months. We typically work with year 7s, ages 11 or 12, but not exclusively. An added bonus is that it improves self-esteem and enables the child to get back on track with their peers.
“Other programmes that we do include Reading Leaders, where we train older pupils, typically 16-18 years old, to support younger pupils with their reading. The older students then gain accreditation.”
Reading Matters success stories
For Rachel, a couple of success stories really stand out.
She recalls: “One young man came to the UK from the Congo and became involved in our programme. He was mad about Theo Walcott and Arsenal football club. One of our mentors wrote to the club on his behalf and the club sent back lots of programmes and literature for him.
“There was another young boy, new to year 8 at All Saints Catholic High School in Huddersfield, from overseas. He hardly spoke any English and this was holding him back. With the support of our programme, this boy gained reading skills to the point where he is now, 12-18 months later, a Reading Leader, helping others. How wonderful.
“We are also training Reading Leaders in years 5-6 to work with years 2-3. Last year, Appleton Academy pupils spoke at our annual conference in Brighouse and a five year old spoke in front of 150 delegates along with other five, six and seven year olds to say, ‘I love reading’. Another boy with complex needs regarding language and literature also got up and spoke. Those who watched Educating Yorkshire may remember inspirational teacher Mr Burton, who also spoke at the conference.”
Reading Families programme
Another programme that Reading Matters offers is Reading Families, where parents and carers learn how they can support their children at home, via various workshops and courses.
Rachel says: “We also help families think about the basic and functional literacy skills, for example reading a map or bus timetables or job applications. All Reading Matters’ reading sessions have no set texts, instead we look at all forms of literacy, including playing games, looking at comics, magazines and newspapers and developing communication skills.”
Rachel herself became involved with Reading Matters after initially following a career as a Quality and Training Manager for a removals company, before going down the education route.
She says: “I was really interested in anything locally to promote reading and have always had a love of books. I really enjoy what I do as it’s so varied. Te charity sector is really different to the private sector— every penny really does count.”
Last year, the organisation supported over 4,600 children and young people through various learning programmes, with just five members of staff on board.
They are always looking for volunteers and support; to find out more, or to volunteer, please visit the Reading Matters website at www.readingmatters.org.uk.