Last week I completed my final training session to become a reading mentor for a charity which works to improve the literacy ability of children.
The way it works is that a group of volunteer mentors join schools once a week to have a reading session with selected pupils.
Some pupils may be able to read a few words and others may not know the alphabet. What they all have in common is that they are below the national reading average for their age.
Across the next academic year, the extra support the children receive aims to improve not just their literacy, but also their communication skills and confidence.
The charity, which co-ordinates the Extra Time sessions, told me that in the past children have exceeded their expected target grades by participating in the course.
Also after the year, the pupils wished that they could continue with the course as they enjoyed it so much.
Without doubt, this course inspires enthusiasm, passion and a reading ethic in the young lives.
The sessions are once a week, after school. There are over 90 mentors in Portsmouth and I am proud to be one of them.
A typical session obviously consists of some form or reading. However, 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 that 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 they are celebrated.
This leads me on to every young person in Portsmouth and how important it is to be able read.
In Portsmouth, there is a high number of young people with a reading ability lower than their actual age.
I find this highly 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 that they could do with a bit of extra support, help them.
If you have a younger sibling, read with them.
Even if it’s 10 minutes a day, it will benefit them in the long term.