WHEN Jessica Matthews joined her new primary school last year she was not a huge fan of books.
And at the age of seven she was only able to read as well as the average reception class child.
But the eight-year-old is now one of 18 youngsters in her year at Trosnant Juniors, Leigh Park, who has had a poem published in a national anthology.
It comes after the pupils entered poems about cowboys into the Young Writers’ competition.
Jessica, who caught up with her peers thanks to the help of dedicated teachers who put in several hours of one-to-one coaching, said: ‘I’m so proud of myself – I honestly never thought I’d do this well.
‘When I started at Trosnant in Year Two I wasn’t very good at reading and writing because I found it boring.
‘But my teachers here make it fun and I’ve put a lot of effort into my work, which has definitely been worth it.
‘They come up with the best topics that inspired all of us, like the theme of the Wild West which gave us ideas about how to write poems about cowboys.
‘Now I love reading at school and at home, especially adventure books.’
Jessica was placed on the school’s Better Reading Programme for a term, which meant one-to-one work with an adult three times a week.
She also benefited from Oscar’s Reading Academy – named after the school’s owl mascot – where teachers volunteer to give one-to-one coaching once a week after school.
Jessica’s poem is an acrostic, meaning the first letters of each line spell out words – in this case Wild West.
Headteacher Jim Hartley said: ‘I’m so pleased we’ve been able to help Jessica enjoy reading. When you have a child who loves to read, that’s half the battle won.
‘Reading is so important because it is the key to accessing the broader curriculum.’
Jessica’s proud dad Gordon Matthews, 33, of Burghclere Road in Havant, said: ‘She’s picking books up now all the time and reading them.
‘Even if they’re too advanced she wants to read the words and we help her understand the context.
‘A year ago I wouldn’t have ever believed Jessica could have had a poem of hers published at such a young age.
‘When she joined Trosnant she had the reading age of someone in reception class.
‘She has made fantastic progress and we are so proud of her. As someone who has dyslexia and knows how much it held me back in life with job prospects, I’m thrilled for Jessica.
‘The school has been fantastic.’