A free book is to be given to every child leaving primary school in Manchester this July as part of a city-wide first to help prepare them for starting high school in September.
The Bee Ready, Bee a Reader scheme will see more than 7,000 school children, currently in year 6 at primary school, given a free copy of the “The Kid Who Came From Space“ (HarperCollins Children’s Books) by award winning author Ross Welford to help keep them in the reading habit over summer - particularly important this year given the amount of time most of them have had out of the classroom during lockdown.
Welford's book is a science fiction adventure teeming with humour and compassion, which celebrates the joy of friendship and love, with an underlying message of striving to do your best. It's hoped the project will encourage pupils to continue reading, and will help reinforce literacy skills that might otherwise be lost over the summer, in a fun and informal way.
It's also hoped that giving each child the same book as they leave primary school will go some way towards helping pupils with their move up to big school, by giving them a shared experience with their new class-mates when they start at their high school.
The transition between Year 6 and Year 7 can be a difficult time for some children and this year the Covid-19 crisis means many will be facing this change without the help they would usually get from their primary school teachers and school friends, as well as their new high schools.
The wider aim of the reading project is to help establish some common ground for the Year 6 pupils, by having them all read the book and complete an accompanying set of challenges, with tasks - including making a solar system from household objects and designing a comic strip - based on the book.
By the time they start Year 7 it's hoped pupils will have plenty to chat about with their new classmates, and will have extended their learning by studying related topics.
The summer project has been made possible through £43,000 worth of donations from sponsors including City in The Community and also highways contractors who have been working throughout the lockdown for the council on improving some of the city's busiest roads, and who have all added some social value to their contracts at a time when it has been needed most. These include: Eric Wright, J Hopkins, Tarmac, Dowhigh and Sapphire Utility Solutions.
Councillor Garry Bridges, Executive Member for Children and Schools, said: “There is no doubt that the disruption caused by Covid-19 to the school year will have a significant impact on Year 6 primary school leavers. Many pupils will be faced with the daunting prospect of joining their new high school with little opportunity for preparation.
“The Bee Ready, Bee A Reader programme will go some way to help ensure that children going into Year 7 have something to relate to and talk about. Hopefully making the first day back that little less daunting.
“We have seen just how hard local government has been hit by the pandemic, and without the kindness of those businesses who donated to the programme many children might not have been able to continue their literacy development through the summer.”
Ross Welford, author of The Kid Who Came From Space (HarperCollins Children’s Books), said: “I’m delighted that Year 6 children across Manchester will get the chance to read my book as part of Read Manchester’s Bee Ready, Bee a Reader project. It’s a pleasure to support pupils as they make the move to secondary school, through what has been a challenging time for everybody. I hope the story will bring give them the chance to build new friendships as they reach this exciting milestone!”
The Bee Ready, Bee a Reader scheme is being led by Read Manchester - a Manchester City Council campaign in partnership with the National Literacy Trust to encourage local families to make reading a priority in their everyday lives.
Alice Birdwood, Literacy Communities Project Manager at the National Literacy Trust, said: “We know that pupils’ love of reading is at its peak at the end of primary school, but gradually drops off as they start secondary school. An enjoyment of reading is crucial for supporting children’s literacy skills, academic success and wellbeing, so it’s really important to maintain their interest in reading throughout this transitionary period and to give them the best chance of a strong start to Year 7 in September. This is currently more important than ever following an extended period of time spent away from their usual daily routine, classroom and friends.
“We hope that pupils across Manchester enjoy their copies of The Kid Who Came From Space and that they are inspired to read more books for pleasure this summer.”
Mike Green, Head of City in the Community, said: “During these uncertain times it has been incredibly important to ensure students are engaged with their learning. At City in the Community we have been working hard to stay connected to schools and pupils across Manchester, and we are delighted to support the Bee Ready, Bee A Reader programme. Providing the same book to Year 6 students offers a fun way for them to continue developing literacy skills whilst sharing the experience with their friends, and we hope this programme encourages the children to keep reading together throughout the summer.”