Wales's Reading Communities Feature on World Stage

27 Sep 2012

The achievements of Wales’s ten Reading Communities will be highlighted at an international literacy conference in Frankfurt on 8 October. Funded by the Welsh Government and coordinated by the Welsh Books Council, the Reading Communities aim to promote reading and literacy amongst 7 to 11 year-olds, their families and the wider community. Garry Nicholas, national coordinator of the initiative, will deliver a presentation on the work and impact of the Communities to representatives of organisations, institutions and experts from both the literacy field and the field of politics, political sciences and sociology.

The conference is organised by LitCam (Frankfurt Book Fair Literacy Campaign), in partnership with the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning, and will focus on the theme of literacy and democratic participation. Wales’s contribution will be one of three presentations on literacy in a bilingual situation; the others will be from New Zealand and Namibia. In his address, Garry Nicholas will outline the process used to set up the Reading Communities, describe their aims and objectives and the range of devices used to implement and achieve these, and give details of the partnership base within each community.

Leighton Andrews, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Education and Skills, said: "The Welsh Government launched its National Literacy Programme in May 2012 and is committed to improving literacy levels in Wales. The work of the Welsh Books Council is helping with this objective, and I am pleased to see that approaches developed in Wales are gaining international recognition."

Tackling literacy issues is at the core of the ten Reading Communities that have been established within some of Wales’s Strategic Regeneration Areas. Each community has its own coordinator who arranges a whole range of activities including setting up reading clubs, organising reading breakfasts, establishing a network of volunteers to act as ‘reading buddies’, arranging workshops for parents and carers that will enhance their reading and storytelling skills, and distributing ‘top tips’ leaflets for parents, entitled ‘Make Time to Read’. Each Reading Community coordinator has also been working closely with RSVP (Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme) to seek volunteers and establish ‘reading buddy’ schemes within their areas. Under this initiative, adults are trained to help and support children with their reading through regular visits to schools.

Garry Nicholas, national coordinator of the Reading Communities project, said: "I consider it a great honour to be asked to represent the Welsh Books Council at such a prestigious event. It will give me an opportunity not only to highlight the excellent achievements of the ten Reading Communities in Wales, but also to engage in wide-ranging dialogue and networking with regard to literacy and active citizenship."

A great deal of progress has been made during the first two years of the project; evidence gathered to date indicates that, in some Reading Communities, adults who had previously been reluctant to admit that they needed help with their basic skills have now signed up for literacy sessions. In other areas, projects at schools have created a more vibrant and enthusiastic approach to books and reading, with teachers becoming more active in developing new reading activities in conjunction with the Reading Community coordinator. As a result of the work within another of the Reading Community, 80% of the parents said that they would ‘do more activities with their child that would help improve their reading’, and 100% said that they ‘will provide a better reading role model for their child by reading more themselves at home’. Feedback from a participating primary school in one of the Reading Communities included the comment that ‘The impact on the boys’ attitude to reading has been significant, they are enthusiastic and are now keen to read independently. Their confidence in group reading sessions has flourished. This is an excellent programme from which our school and pupils have benefitted significantly.’

Elwyn Jones, Chief Executive of the Welsh Books Council, said: "We are absolutely delighted that the experiences of our Reading Communities are to be shared with a prominent international audience. This is recognition indeed for all that has been achieved by the Reading Community coordinators and the communities that they serve."

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