The National Literacy Trust and Dorset Council teamed up earlier this year to support the literacy development of Chesil pupils transitioning from Year 6 to Year 7. Research from the National Literacy Trust shows that reading enjoyment decreases significantly as children get older (75% of children aged 5-8 say they enjoy reading compared with 45% of those aged 14-16), even though children who enjoy reading do better at school and are happier with their lives.
To bridge this gap, primary and secondary schools in Chesil have been delivering a project to encourage reading for enjoyment, targeted at Year 6 pupils and as they move in to Year 7. The project uses the My Brother is a Superhero books and in-person events with the author David Solomons, to nurture a love of reading and writing that will last a lifetime.
Award-winning author David Solomons met with 800 Year 7 students last week, to deliver an assembly inspiring students to read for pleasure and promote access to local libraries.
David Solomons also launched a special edition Dorset Library Card, which will be distributed to the young people taking part to encourage their continued literary engagement after the event. Schools will be encouraging students to visit their local libraries using the cards as they compete to record the most visits and be in with the chance of winning prizes to support reading in their school.
Local student Hector (who started at Southill Primary School and went on to attend Budmouth Academy) won the creative writing competition to design the project’s mascot. Solomons revealed Hector’s winning entry as Billie the Hamster – brought to life by professional illustrator Phil Sheppard – who features on the special edition library card.
Having read, studied and written creative writing pieces inspired by David’s books over the last six months, the event with David Solomons is a chance for students to meet him, ask him questions about his books, and seek advice to encourage their own writing.
“One of the joys of being a children's author is being able to get involved in inspiring local literacy activity like the Chesil Reading Project which uses the power of reading to support children in their secondary school transition. It’s been an absolute honour to see my books used within the project – the students’ work has been so impressive! – and I can’t wait to meet them all and celebrate their achievements.”David Solomons
“We are so pleased to have David Solomons play such a central role in the Chesil Reading Project. Low literacy can hold a person back at every stage of their life: as a child they won't be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and if they become a parent they won't be able to support their own child's learning. Inspiring children and engaging them in books is therefore vital as we seek to support them through what can be a very challenging transition.”Mike Leyland, Programme Manager at the National Literacy Trust
“We know that children who are behind in their reading age struggle to access their learning and that gap, if not closed early, just gets bigger and harder to close. We also know that the Covid pandemic has impacted children’s reading ability even further, putting many of the youngest children in the UK at 3-6 months behind where they should be, so we’re always keen to find exciting new ways to encourage them to read. This project seems to have achieved just that in a fun and exciting way and I hope it inspires the children to keep reading.”Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Children, Education, Skills and Early Help