Improving Adult Literacy

Year 5 children at North Park Primary School in County Durham decided to make a difference to adult literacy in their local community

We thought very carefully about all the social and environmental problems we were aware of before deciding on the issue that would be the focus of our Make a Difference Challenge. We started out with 30 causes and problems that we felt needed attention. We then narrowed the list down to 6 before having a secret ballot to select our final choice: helping adults in our local community to improve their literacy skills.

“Quite a few parents struggle with literacy so it’s an issue the children have direct experience of”

Class teacher

We carried out lots of research into the problems faced by adults who are unable to read and write confidently and came across a small charity, Read Easy, that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to give one-to-one tuition to adults who struggle with reading. Unfortunately, there weren’t any Read Easy volunteers or groups in the area so we came up with lots of ideas about other ways we might be able to help.

We decided to focus our efforts on practical action by providing support to adults through workshops to help improve their confidence in the absence of a Read Easy group. We also thought it would be useful to have a small informal lending library at school, just for adults, to encourage reading for pleasure. Finally, we wanted to raise awareness of the problems faced by adults who struggle with literacy and encourage others to support Read Easy by becoming volunteer tutors, starting a new group or donating to the charity.

As the school already had links with local author and storyteller Adam Bushnell, we decided to enlist his help and he kicked the project off by running a story-writing workshop with children and their parents. More regular support would be needed however, so we also contacted local colleges who came into school for 6 weeks to run workshops for parents based around Roald Dahl books on Wednesday and Friday afternoons.

To raise funds to buy new books for the lending library, we collected old and damaged books and learnt how to fold them to create hedgehogs which we then sold. Money left over from purchasing new books will be donated to Read Easy.

Many adults are reluctant to admit to their literacy difficulties and ask for help. One of the most important aspects of supporting adults with low literacy levels is to increase their self-esteem and persuade them of the benefits of improving their reading and writing.

Sign up for the Make a Difference Challenge.

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