A YORKSHIRE charity which trains both volunteers and pupils to help children in school to read is hosting a conference next month to “bring literacy to life” for young people.
The event is being held by Bradford-based organisation Reading Matters which provides support to more than 4,000 young people a-year around West and South Yorkshire and beyond.
Speakers at the event include award winning children’s authors Liz Pichon and Tom Palmer along with a field of experts in childrens’ literacy from schools and charities.
Reading Matters chief executive Rachel Kelly told The Yorkshire Post the event was a chance for anyone interested in gettting children reading to share ideas.
She said: “We are delighted that Liz Pichon, who is our new patron, will be delivering the keynote speech and talking about how her incredibly successful Tom Gates books came about, what influenced her and how she never expected to become an author.” The first of those books - The Brilliant World of Tom Gates, won the Roald Dahl funny prize and inspired a successful series which Pichon both writes and illustrates.
Pichon is dyslexic and her career as a writer started with her skill in graphic design which she had studied at the Camberwell School of Art in London before designing record covers for bands and illustrating books for other people.
From there she decided to write and illustrate her own books which had proved successful through the thoughts and doodles of school boy Tom Gates.
She said: “Being dyslexic myself and having a son who is dyslexic, I can really understand what difference having that extra help and support with literacy can mean to a child.
“When I wrote and illustrated Tom Gates I just wanted it to be the kind of book I would have wanted to read as a kid; funny, attention-grabbing and have drawings in it.”
The literacy event in Brighouse on Thursday, July 9, will be the third conference organised by the charity. It was set up in Bradford in the 1990s and now has around 100 mentors working in some 40 schools across West and South Yorkshire.
Mrs Kelly told the Yorkshire Post that the charity’s work was focused on finding what interests children in order to help them to enjoy reading. It sends volunteers into schools around the region to work as reading mentors. They work with two pupils per term spending half an hour each with them twice a week over a ten week period. Mrs Kelly said: “We find that in just ten hours a child’s reading age can improve on average by 15 months. Our volunteers come from different walks of life.
“We provide training but to be a mentor you need to be a decent reader and have empathy with children and young people.”
The charity also work to train older pupils to be reading leaders.
“Last year we trained around 600 reading leaders in 45 different schools across Yorkshire and other parts of the UK including London, Northamptonshire and as far afield as Devon and the Isle of Wight. We are also going out to The Hague in The Netherlands in October. That will be our first European venture.”
The charity is run as a social enterprise which means schools pay for the services but it also relies on fundraising. It is just about to start its latest project providing reading support to teenage parents - both mothers and fathers in Leeds after receiving a grant from the Siobhan Dowd Trust which aims to “bring the joy of reading to disadvantaged children and young adults”.