Reports from teachers highlighted a number of pupils who were struggling with literacy and reading, and felt it would be beneficial for children to read more books out-with school to help improve their skills. Teachers felt that if the pupils were taken from the busy classroom environment and given one-to-one attention, their potential would more likely be stretched, giving them a more positive attitude towards books and reading.
Many parents & carers have taken part in the Storysacks Programme, reporting how their child enjoyed taking part, how they’d engaged in books and activities and how their confidence had grown. Many had also inquired about volunteering within the school. The Home School Partnership Worker knew the Scotland Reads Programme was being used in Calderside High School in Blantyre, and decided to pilot the programme in St Vincent’s Primary School, marrying the two scenarios together.
The initiative began as a pilot scheme in 2009. Teachers nominated 20 pupils from P6 & P7 to take part, chosen on the basis of their interest and engagement in books and reading. Some of these pupils had dyslexia, others had school absences, and others came from families with whom the school found difficulty in engaging, and where books and reading were not viewed as a priority within the home.
12 parents/carers were recruited from the primary school,and a few from the secondary school also took part. The ages of the parent volunteers ranged from 20s to 60s (grandparents became involved too). Now in 2013, the Project now has 42 adult volunteers and 57 pupils from P1-P7, covering the whole school.
Benefits for the Community
- Encourages understanding of the importance and equality of individuals.
- People are more tolerant, and empathy between the generations is built.
- The initiative creates networks within the community helping to break down social isolation, making people feel safer within the community.
- Improves literacy skills.
Benefits for the Younger People
- Increase in enthusiasm and motivation for learning. (Both teachers and pupils report seeing and feeling a difference when asked to read aloud in class).
- Reading skills are improved, increased confidence in their own ability, and more enjoyment of reading books.
- Reduced fear of books and increase of enthusiasm and motivation for picking up a book and reading it (as a result, pupils reported asking their parents to buy them books/comics for home reading and others became members of their local library).
- An increased healthy respect for older people.
- Pupils see parents/carers acting as positive role models; the sharing of their free time and their enthusiasm has undoubtedly had a “ripple effect” on young people.
- An unintentional outcome for many of the pupils is a new friend, a trusted adult to whom they can talk.
Benefits for the Older People
- Raise self-esteem and develop confidence. (The volunteers decided to become a constituted group. With training and support they formed “St Vincent’s Scotland Reads Group” setting up a bank account to enable them to manage their funds and apply for further funding).
- Develop new skills & knowledge (12 volunteers attended a Child Protection and PVG training session, 6 volunteers attended a Bookbug at Home training by the Scottish Book Trust, 2 volunteers attended a Children in Scotland Conference “Turning the Page, Improving Literacy for All” and 2 other volunteers attended Education Scotland’s “Reading Together” Conference).
- The initiative keeps older adults in touch with the “youth of today” and helps promote an understanding of young people and their outlook on life.
- New friendships developed between volunteers (this is particularly important in helping to reduce isolation).
- Supports volunteers to go back to learning and break into the job market. One volunteer felt it helped her be successful in her application to do a Humanities Course at South Lanarkshire College. Another volunteer felt the experience helped her secure a full-time post in Glasgow Caledonian University.
East Kilbride & Strathaven Community Learning & Home School Partnership Team; Integrating Children’s Services, East Kilbride; books donated from Scottish Book Trust.
Evaluation of the Project is continuous and on-going
- Feedback from pupils is gathered at the end of each school term, involving a series of questions, which are recorded and collated.
- The volunteers’ feelings are recorded at their end-of-term support meetings.
- Teachers’ observations and feelings are also collated each term.
- Weekly diaries are written by volunteers and pupils, providing the teacher with an up-date of each pupil’s progress. They then respond with a short written evaluation.
- The Home School Partnership Worker, writes an end-of-term evaluation based on observations of the initiative, including verbal feedback from both pupils and volunteers.
The intergenerational approach was commended by the school inspectorate, seeing wider benefits to the project than just improving reading and self-esteem. They felt that it was of great importance to the pupils to have an older mentor with whom to talk and share any concerns or worries out-with the school and family setting, and saw it as a fine example within a health and well-being context.
What changed as a result of the project?
More pupils were engaged in books and reading, and more parental involvement within the school.
Community Learning & Home School Team’s priorities for the St Vincent’s Scotland Reads Group are:
• To increase enthusiasm and motivation for learning
• A determination to reach high standards of achievement
• A sense of physical, mental and emotional well-being
• Respect for both self and others
• A commitment to participate responsibly in political, economic, cultural and social life though building of an enterprising attitude
• The building of self-reliance
All of the above priorities are built by: increased positive communication with others; development of the imagination through an increased interest in books and reading; building of self-esteem, and consequently confidence and self-belief; learning to think creatively and independently; being encouraged to take the initiative and lead; and to apply critical thinking and problem solving techniques.
This project contributes to the Scottish National Performance Framework (NPF)
Scottish NPF Objectives
The main NPF objectives that this project contributes to is:
- Smarter will focus on improving literacy, numeracy and attainment and on raising and realising ambition for all
- Healthier will enable people to live longer and healthier lives
These NPF objectives could also apply:
- Safer and Stronger aims to help local communities to flourish and become stronger, safer places to live
- Wealthier and Fairer will support activities that address inequalities and enhance skills, employability and job opportunities. It builds on the characteristics of solidarity, cohesion and sustainability to ensure that all of Scotland has an opportunity to flourish.
Scottish NPF Outcomes
Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens: To enable children, young people and (subsequently) adults to thrive from an early age, and make a positive contribution in the 21st century.
Our people are able to maintain their independence as they get older, and are able to access appropriate support when they need it: Providing high quality care and support to an ageing population is a fundamental principle of social justice and is an important hallmark of a caring and compassionate society. Collectively we need to give priority to ensuring that older people receive the care, compassion, support and dignity they need and deserve.
We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others: Being part of a strong community gives us the support we need locally. It minimises crime, antisocial behaviour and their social and economic costs.
We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people: If everyone has the opportunity to work, improve their skills and make a positive contribution to the nation’s increasing prosperity, we will create a wealthier, fairer and smarter Scotland.