Empowering parents through Early Words Together in Peterborough

Dad nursery

Parents whose children attend Dogsthorpe Infant School in Peterborough have been empowered to support their child’s learning at home after taking part in Early Words Together.

Run by the National Literacy Trust Hub in Peterborough, the programme trained early years professionals and parent volunteers to deliver six weekly sessions with parents whose children, aged three to five, attended Dogsthorpe Infant School. The sessions were designed to give parents the skills and confidence they need to support their child’s communication, language and literacy development outside of school.

Dogsthorpe Infant School recruited seven parent volunteers to help develop and run the sessions. “It was a partnership approach,” said Vicky Bowman, Reading Lead at Dogsthorpe Infant School. “Teachers and parents worked together to decide how the programme would run and we discussed what we thought the challenges were around literacy for people in our local area, to make sure we were addressing them properly.”

The parent volunteers chose six books that they thought would best engage local parents and children and themed each weekly Early Words Together session around one of the books. “For example, one week the book we chose was Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell,” explained Vicky. “We provided materials so that parents and children who attended the session could make animal masks and puppets together after reading the book. We made sure that the sessions were fun and engaging through lots of creative literacy-based activities, as well as reading the books.”

Dave Chappell, a parent governor at Dogsthorpe Infant School, was one of the parent volunteers who took part. “It was great to see the change in the parents attending the sessions over the course of six weeks,” he said. “In the beginning, parents were somewhat unsure about reading with their child, but as the weeks went on they became a lot more confident. Through Early Words Together they realised how important reading really is for children – even if it’s just reading street signs or shopping lists, it’s all still reading!”

Vicky and Dave also noticed a significant impact on the children who were involved. “I was approached by a parent who had taken part in the programme with her son,” said Dave. “Before the programme, his teachers had been concerned about his literacy development and were worried that he never spoke in class. His mum told me that since taking part in Early Words Together he is more confident in the classroom, his literacy levels have improved and he’s now enjoying reading books too.”

The programme has had such a positive impact on children and parents that Dogsthorpe Infant School are running it again in 2017 and are planning to link up with other local nurseries and pre-schools to expand its reach.

“The power of the programme has been amazing,” added Vicky. “Having parents as volunteers is brilliant because they really understand the pressures that other parents from the local area are under. Because of Early Words Together, local parents now have the skills they need to continue encouraging their child’s literacy development at home.”