Let’s Talk Reading

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The Let’s Talk Reading project was established in 2017 by Roger Fern and John Helleur in response to research showing half of students start secondary school two years behind their reading age in the areas around Ipswich Academy, Chantry, Stoke, and Whitton.

One in five children are over four years behind.

A child without good reading, writing and communication skills can’t succeed at school, and as an adult they could be locked out of the job market.

The project not only works with schools and nurseries but also supports parents who are struggling to read to become more confident in talking and reading with their children and to improve their own literacy skills. John got in touch with us as he recognised that the earlier any support is received the better, in fact the first thousand days are crucial to a child’s development. As we meet many mothers and fathers during pregnancy or soon after their baby’s birth, we are well placed to not only help parents find support to improve their reading, but also to make our courses more accessible to those who struggle with reading.

Did you know?

  • One person in six in the UK struggles to read. These low literacy skills impact on every area of their life.
  • Around 15% of adults in England would not pass an English GCSE and have literacy levels at or below those expected of an 11-year-old. Nearly half of these people are unable to read safety signs and instructions on medicines.
  • Reading for pleasure is more important for children’s development and achievements in life than their background.
  • Parents and carers who are confident readers are more likely to help children become confident and enthusiastic readers themselves.

How do Suffolk Babies classes help a baby learn to read?

We have started a project in the Gainsborough area of Ipswich where Let’s Talk Reading fund us to provide free antenatal and baby classes to people who live in the area because our classes are an excellent first step for a baby to develop the skills needed to become a strong reader.

I think I’m pretty safe in assuming that you are able to read, as you are reading this! And I expect that reading to your child is probably second nature to you. Babies and toddlers love books, and if you have books around your house, or visit your local library, you’ll already be fostering a love of reading in your child.

But what about those parents who don’t read at home? How can coming to one of our classes help their baby develop those all-important reading skills? Well, we’re not just singing nursery rhymes because we love them! Even in Munchkins, for new parents, this course is about beginning a conversation with your baby, learning their cues, and understanding their language. Enabling parents to be responsive and in tune with their baby at such an early stage is key for a child to develop their emotional, social and language skills.

As we move through the classes, the use of rhymes is key to developing children’s language and reading abilities. To become strong readers, children first need a strong foundation of oral language.

By teaching children (and their parents) songs, with movements to aid memory and physical development, we are aiding children on the first vital step to learning to read, as research has found that an awareness of the different sounds in spoken words is the single strongest indicator for a child’s success at learning to read.

For some parents, they may not have considered singing nursery rhymes to their baby, or understood its importance. They may well have forgotten all the songs from their own childhood. Our classes teach a range of songs and explain their importance, and you can see for yourself how much the babies enjoy it, and we hope you will continue this at home in between classes.

What else are we doing with Let’s Talk Reading?

Another exciting part of the project is that we are filming our free Essential Preparation for Birth Workshop, so that anyone can watch it online. It’ll be a shorter version of the 4 hour workshop, and split into chapters so you can dip in and out as you like. The aim is to make it as accessible as possible, so that even people who would not be able to attend one of our workshops can still benefit from top quality antenatal education. We know that people who struggle to read are much less likely to attend classes of any sort, so we hope this will be much easier for them. It’ll be available from around Easter and I’ll share the link with you all when it is ready to view.

How you can get involved

  • If you live in the Gainsborough area of Ipswich you are eligible to attend our free classes. These run on Wednesday mornings at the Treehouse Children’s Centre, and you can book with us by phone or email.
  • If you live in Whitton, look out for free classes starting in that area of town from July.
  • Maybe you have some free time, or your retired parents have some free time and would like to volunteer for the Read Easy programme? Read Easy Ipswich is looking for volunteers to provide confidential, one-to-one support for anyone over the age of 18 who can’t read or struggles with reading. They should be able to read fluently and willing to spend time on a regular basis teaching someone else to read. For more information on Read Easy Ipswich, see here.
  • Let’s Talk Reading are looking for volunteers to read to children in Early Years Settings. You can find out the details here.

Have a look at some of the testimonials from the Read Easy project to see why this is such a worthwhile project and what an enormous change learning to read can make to someone’s life. Imagine how terrifying it must be, when you cannot read the labels on foods when your child has a peanut allergy:

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