The Norfolk Reading Project links up with national charity
New Literacy Project
TNRP is joining forces with the Norfolk Community Foundation and the National Literacy Trust to boost reading in targeted schools in Thetford and Norwich. This initiative will provide training for new volunteers and lots of extra resources for the schools.
In addition, Jane James, Mayor Cllr of Thetford, who was key in bringing this new project to Norfolk, wants us to be her mayoral charity. We attended both the mayor-making ceremony and the Civic Reception in May 2022 to spread the word about what we do.
Our objective in Thetford is to provide at least two volunteers for each of the 10 chosen Thetford schools over the course of Mayor James’ year in post.TNRP will train and provide its own Reading Support Volunteers whilst local businesses will be targeted for Employer-Supported Volunteers.
“The key to a fairer society is not to be locked out of schoolwork as a child, the jobs market as an adult or your own child’s learning as a parent,” said TNRP’s Sarah Anthony in her speech at the Civic Reception.
This is the full text of Sarah's address to the reception:
"Mayor James, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Thank you for inviting The Norfolk Reading Project to be here this evening. We are honoured that Mayor James has selected us as her charity this year and know how much she shares our passion for reading - recognising the importance of good literacy standards.
As the name implies, The Norfolk Reading Project is a local charity formed in 2015 in response to increasing concerns about the reading levels of young people. In certain pockets across the County the statistics are quite shocking with 1 in 4 children leaving school unable to read. Falling levels are having a negative impact on their mental health, wellbeing and future prospects.
Our aim is to support teachers by providing trained volunteers to read on a one-to-one basis within Primary Schools, at no cost to the schools themselves. In fact, this service is free to everyone. The volunteers learn about the New National Curriculum and the importance that phonics must play in learning to read. We have found that our focus on phonics is particularly welcomed by teachers, as it supports, rather than conflicts, with their class teaching.
A teacher from one of our schools said “The children get 1:1 time sharing not only their phonics, and knowledge, but discussing the books and growing in confidence, which impacts ALL areas of the curriculum”
In the last few years, we have trained over 300 volunteers and are helping more than 50 schools throughout the county. That equates to over 10,000 children who have benefitted from regular help with their reading and comprehension. Our objective in Thetford is to provide at least two volunteers for each of the 10 Thetford schools over the course of Mayor James’s year in post.
In addition to the work we already carry out in schools, we are collaborating with the National Literacy Trust and Norfolk Community Foundation on a joint venture called The Literacy Project. Mayor James has been instrumental in bringing this initiative to Thetford. In a multi-pronged approach, we hope to improve literacy levels in Thetford by raising its profile. A third of businesses are not satisfied with young people’s literacy skills when they enter the workforce, which undermines the UK’s economic competitiveness, costing the taxpayer an estimated £2.5 billion every year. TNRP will train and provide our own Reading Support Volunteers whilst local businesses will be targeted for Employer-Supported Volunteers.
Role models are needed no matter what faith, race, age or gender. Illiteracy is a multi-generational problem and the key to a fairer society is not to be locked out of schoolwork as a child, the job market as an adult or your own child’s learning as a parent.
From a personal viewpoint, I have been working with Year 2 pupils in the same school in a deprived area of Norfolk for 7 years. I am flattered that so many hands go up the moment I walk into the classroom and, unless I very much mistaken, hope it’s because they want to read with me, rather than all need to go to the cloakroom!
It's wonderful to watch their development. Some struggle to decode ‘top cat’, others devour Harry Potter books, although reading the words isn’t necessarily understanding the meaning and comprehension is vital. As a Reading Project volunteer I learn so much every week and I only wish I had been trained before I had my own children. Two weeks ago, in a book about frogs and toads, words such as predator, prey and amphibian came up in a book – for a start, these are challenging words for a 6-year-old to decode. We talked about their meaning and when I was with them again on Wednesday they knew the words, remembered all the information and we spoke about other animals that fell into these categories.
Mayor James is passionate in her desire to improve literacy standards and inspirational in her dedication and approach. She empowers those around her to do the same and we hope to help her with those goals.
There are lots of ways to help support us and the community in Thetford. With as little as 2 hours each week during term time you can make a real difference to a child’s future prospects in life and ultimately provide businesses with the valuable workforce they need to thrive. Lorraine and I are on our stand so please come and speak to us to see how you can get involved with The Norfolk Reading Project.
Thank you very much."