“I was not so good at reading – it used to make me tired – but now I like being part of Reading Pals and seeing everybody every week. I think my reading is better now.”
– Pakeman Primary pupil
This year, School-Home Support (SHS) practitioners in Islington have been participating in a pilot scheme called Reading Pals. This scheme uses peer mentoring to develop pupils’ literacy skills and confidence: older children are trained as coaches to support younger children through shared reading activities and games.
The first year of the pilot has been a great success, with many participants showing an improvement in literacy as well as an increased enjoyment of reading. Peer mentoring has become a popular method for schools to support pupils with issues such as bullying, and as the Reading Pals scheme shows, it can benefit mentors as much as mentees, with many of the coaches showing increased levels of confidence.
SHS practitioners delivering Reading Pals are funded by the Richard Reeves Foundation as part of the ‘Partners in Learning’ programme, which aims to improve the literacy and numeracy of families living in Islington. In addition to running groups like Reading Pals to support progress in literacy, practitioners have been running lunchtime math clubs and delivering family learning workshops. By working with parents, practitioners help to boost parent’s confidence in supporting their children’s learning outside school, which in turn boosts pupil progress in school. Following the success of Reading Pals this year, practitioners hope to continue with the scheme, giving mentors more independence in the sessions and letting them take a greater lead in the delivery.
The charity Give a Book have also generously donated one hundred books to three of the participating schools. The books will be used to create new mini libraries run by the coaches and open to all pupils, encouraging reading for pleasure across the school. With many families struggling to afford basic amenities, in addition to cuts to local libraries, many of the most vulnerable young people do not have access to books at home so these books will make a big difference to those young people.
“ A lot of studies show the impact reading for pleasure has on pupils’ academic and personal development. We [donate] a wide selection of books to give pupils the chance to explore different books and find something they really enjoy. So far we have had really positive feedback about pupils’ enthusiasm for the new libraries and we look forward to hearing more about it in the new term ”
– Adeela Khan, Give a Book
“Reading Pals is an invaluable resource at our school. The wonderful relationships that have developed between the older and younger children as a result of reading together has been a real surprise. The participation in PALS has meant that along with reading skills, other social skills are developed too – their confidence and self-esteem grows which all helps to add to their enjoyment of reading. The donation from Give a Book was very exciting as there were new books for our readers and new opportunities to open up reading to others in the school.”
– Marta Tildesley, SHS Practitioner at Pakeman Primary School