UK-wide reading campaign encourages parents in Northern Ireland to join their children at school

3 February 2016

Charities involved in the Read On. Get On. campaign have been working with a Belfast primary school to improve pupils’ reading skills.

Save the Children and Black Mountain primary school have been supporting and encouraging parents to come into class to read to their children.

“We started asking parents to join their children at school, and the enthusiasm for reading has particularly improved,” said school principal, Jill Black. “Parents are able to enjoy reading, and this has a knock-on effect for their children. We’ve seen a huge increase in their attainment and achievement in reading.”

The Read On. Get On. coalition, which also includes Libraries Northern Ireland, Parenting Northern Ireland and Early Years, commissioned research using data from the Millennium Cohort Study to show that many disadvantaged children begin school with below average reading and language skills.

Researchers from the UCL Institute of Education contributed their findings to the Ready to Read Northern Ireland report to reveal that 65 per cent of children aged 5 who were from poor backgrounds had below average vocabulary scores, compared to only 38 per cent of those who had never experienced poverty.

The study, which involved almost 2,000 children from across Northern Ireland, also showed that children from poor backgrounds who had below average vocabulary scores at age 5 scored on average 23 per cent lower in comprehension tests at age 11 than children who also had below average scores at age 5 but who had never experienced poverty.

The head of Save the Children Northern Ireland, Fergus Cooper, said that getting parents involved in their child’s reading was important in developing literacy skills.

“Every parent wants their child to succeed but many parents don’t know how to reinforce their child’s learning. Early language development is a key skill that leads on to good reading, so we need to invest and engage much earlier,” Mr Cooper said.

The aim of the Read On. Get On. campaign is to get all children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, reading well at age 11 by the year 2025. The coalition hopes to achieve this through supporting early years learning and primary schools, as well helping parents assist their children’s reading.

Previous research commissioned by the Read On. Get On. campaign used data from the 1970 British Cohort Study to reveal that poorer children who fall behind in reading by age 10 go on to earn around 20 per cent an hour less at age 40 than those who were the best readers in childhood.

Further information

Save the Children Ready to Read campaign – report Northern Ireland

National campaign highlights impact of poor childhood literacy on later life, April 13th 2015

Northern Ireland study suggests many poorer children starting school struggle with language, BBC News Northern Ireland, January 29th 2016

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