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Could you help these Farnley school children boost their reading?

School children in Farnley are appealing for volunteers to help them improve their reading skills, writes Matt Gibson.

Pupils at Lawns Park Primary School are spearheading a recruitment drive to expand its “reading buddy” programme.

The scheme sees adults from the community come into school to read with children during one-to-one sessions lasting around 10-15 minutes per pupil.

The school’s council has made the recruitment of more reading buddies its top priority for the coming year.

lawns park reading buddies
A wide selection of reading books at Lawns Park. Photo: Matt Gibson

Its chairman Jake, aged 10, explained that he and his fellow pupils love to read and would like to do it every day, but with just a handful of reading buddies currently helping at the school, there aren’t enough to satisfy the demand from all the children.

Janine Smith, 66, from Farnley, has been a reading buddy at Lawns Park since she retired and said the school is “very flexible” and works around what times are best suited to her to come in and help.

Miss Smith, whose children went to the school and whose grandchildren are currently pupils there, said it is “really rewarding” to see the children progress. She said:

“Over the last two years there have been certain children who were a little bit reluctant to come and read.

“But they soon came around and now they can’t wait to get stuck into their books. Now, when some of the children see me in school, they stop me and, with huge smiles on their faces, ask if their names are on the reading list.”

Miss Smith added that it’s not all about spelling and being able to recognise words and said that each child is unique and benefits from the sessions in different ways. She said:

“There are different techniques you can use depending on the pupil.

“Some are brilliant readers but aren’t very good, at first, at understanding what they’ve read. So, for them, comprehension exercises are very useful. Others can be reading quite slowly so, in these cases, it’s good to work on speed and pronunciation.

“Some children might be reading in monotone so it’s helpful to read things back to them in a way that makes it sound more interesting and entertaining. Teaching them how to use things like intonation and tone helps bring reading to life for them.”

Scarlett, aged eight, who likes David Walliams novels because they’re funny and non-fiction books about animals, said:

“Miss Smith is very kind and, if you get stuck on a word she can explain it.

“When you read you get to know more words. This helps with my school work and makes me feel more confident.”

Jane Whiteley, 45, from Wortley, was a pupil at Lawns Park when she was a child and has been volunteering at the school for 10 years. She said:

“You can encourage a good amount of self-reflection when reading with the children and help them to better understand what they’ve read.

“You can get so much out of just one paragraph by reading it back and trying to absorb something different each time.”

Aidan, aged eight, who enjoys reading scary stories like those in the Goosebumps series of books, said he likes to share ideas from his reading with classmates during English lessons. He said:

“Others might take your ideas but that’s OK because knowing other children want to use them builds your confidence.”

Rebecca Ford, headteacher at Lawns Park, said:

“There are lots of studies about how beneficial reading alongside adults is for children.

“Research shows that the more reading you do, the greater the range of vocabulary you will meet. Children who love reading often have better attendance and are happier students because they are more able to succeed with their learning. Children who develop a love a reading are likely to continue this into adulthood and studies show that reading can boost your mental health.

“Children being able to sit and read with an adult is a lovely time. It’s a chance for them to engage and work alongside someone who’s not a teacher or relative and it’s lovely one-to-one time that, in a busy school life, you don’t often get.”

Anyone interested in becoming a reading buddy at Lawns Park Primary School should call 0113 263 7364 or email info@lawnspark.org.uk.

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