Sam Poole: We should all help children learn to read

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Twenty-year-old SAM POOLE is a trainee digital journalist who lives at North End, Portsmouth. Follow him on Twitter @shjpoole

Recently I concluded my final session as a reading mentor for a charity which works to improve children’s literacy standards.

Volunteer mentors populate schools across the area once a week to have a reading session with underachieving pupils.

Some have the ability to read a few words. Others do not even know the alphabet.

What they all have in common is they are below the national reading average for their age.

Over the academic year the additional support the children receive strives to improve not just their literacy, but also their confidence and communication skills.

The charity, which co-ordinates the Extra Time sessions, told me in the past children have exceeded their expected target grades by taking part in the course.

After the year pupils were keen to continue with the course as they had a rewarding and fun time.

Understandably, this course inspires enthusiasm, passion and a reading ethic in their young lives.

The weekly sessions were after school. There are more than 50 mentors in the area and I was humbled to be one of them.

A typical session obviously consists of some form or reading.

But, it’s not always about reading a book. The pupils can choose to play a game, such as bingo, using words.

Also, the pupils have the option to write words if they wish to, so they gain a better understanding of what they are learning.

The books are all themed and some are designed for the lead-up to Christmas and Easter.

There are books specifically written for these times and youngsters gain a better understanding of why these festivals are celebrated.

This leads me on to youngsters in Portsmouth and how important it is to be able read.

In Portsmouth, there are large numbers of young people with a reading ability lower than their actual age.

I find this deeply worrying as reading is so important to everyday life and allows us to understand and learn.

Something more needs to be done for young people who struggle with reading.

If you know someone who struggles and believe they could do with a bit of extra support, help them.

If you have a younger sibling, why not read with them? Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, it will benefit them in the long term.

Our young people are on a journey so please encourage them.