To mark our 30th year as an independent charity, we have gathered 30 stories to celebrate the many ways that life stories have been changed by three decades of the National Literacy Trust. We have reached out to practitioners who have delivered our sessions with the children and young people in their setting, families who have taken part in community events and nurses who are also passionate National Literacy Trust volunteers on the side.
In this blog, we would like to introduce Jamie, a teacher from Craigfelen who has taken part in the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme.
Imagine sitting in front of a class of thirty expectant faces all waiting for you to begin the lesson. Some of those kids might be sat quietly or neatly writing the date at the top of their page. Others are more likely to be nudging their friends, tapping a pencil on the desk, or picking stickers off their books.
“Experience tells me that some of the children in my classroom will be trying not to fall asleep. They could have been sat up caring for their younger sibling all night or listening out for a parent to come home. They might even be counting the minutes until lunchtime, already hungry after missing breakfast or even not having eaten since the previous lunch time. As a teacher, I’m ready to get the lesson started, aware of the need to set objectives and achieve targets. But also, as a teacher, I’m acutely aware that we’re quite often called upon to help children beyond the curriculum.“
Jamie, 36 and a teacher from Craigfelen, has seen first-hand how a student’s personal experience can massively impact their ability to concentrate, learn and thrive in the classroom. After taking part in the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers Programme, Jamie has also seen how, with extra support and more focused activities to encourage reading for pleasure, the same students can use their literacy skills to help them through the tough times they are facing at home.
“I have been teaching for 15 years and there’s always a handful of children in each year who need a little bit of extra support whilst things are difficult at home. I had one student a while ago who took part in the National Literacy Trust’s Young Readers’ programme. He picked out a book called Podkin One Ear, and was over the moon with it because it was one he’d really wanted.”
The National Literacy Trust works with children from some of the most disadvantaged communities, who face difficulties reading for a whole range of reasons. The Young Readers Programme aims to help every child discover a love of reading, through giving them brand-new books to enjoy and, crucially, to keep. It’s often the very first book the children have ever owned.
Jamie went on to share that the student who took part in the Young Readers Programme “unfortunately was taken into care just a few weeks later, and other than a few items of clothing, the only thing he took with him was this book. He’d already read the book cover to cover, but it had such an impact on him that he didn’t want to leave it behind.”
It’s not uncommon for children to move into a care setting with little or no possessions, which makes book ownership even more important. For children and young people, the book can signify escape and gives them solace and permission to find a quiet place where they can read a book which they can call their own. The pride of owning a book can also have a knock-on effect for children and their peers, or their siblings. Having discovered an enjoyment of reading, one child approached Jamie to ask if he could take a second book home for his younger sibling for them to share the experience together.
“It was wonderful to see how excited he was to pick out a book for them, and then when their mum brought in a picture of them reading together, she told me how he’d helped uncover a love of reading for his sibling, too.”
It might not be possible for the National Literacy Trust, Jamie, or all the teachers in the world combined, to solve the huge variety of problems children face outside of lessons, but we can help to equip children with the literacy skills they need to break free from their circumstances and get the most out of life.
You can be part of changing life stories
If you would like to help us provide brand-new books to children and change a child’s life story, consider making a donation to fund our Young Readers Programme, or take part in some of our incredible fundraising activities.