Southsea aquarium’s toy giveaway buoys school reading levels

Blue Reef Aquariums Hannah Butt, centre, with teacher Zoe Lyndon, right, and pupils from Victory Primary School
Blue Reef Aquariums Hannah Butt, centre, with teacher Zoe Lyndon, right, and pupils from Victory Primary School
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Donation of nautical soft toys from wildlife attraction has helped school boost percentage of young readers

An aquarium played a part in dramatically improving reading levels by donating toys to a Portsmouth primary school.

Thirty fishy-themed toys were given to youngsters from Victory Primary School by Blue Reef Aquarium, Southsea, as part of an initiative to encourage reading.

The school introduced the scheme in September 2016, after it found out that a mere 19 per cent of children were reading outside school.

In an event which coincided with Book Week, pupils were also given a selection of books inside hand-made reading bags.

The school claims the bags have played an instrumental role in getting more than four times the number of children to pick up a book at home.

Zoe Lyndon, a teacher at Victory Primary, said: ‘We are so proud of the achievements our school has made in reading.

‘The scheme is allowing children to practice this essential skill, spend valuable time with family members and enjoy the world of books.’

As well as donating toys that they could no longer sell in their shop because of slight cosmetic damage, staff at Blue Reef have offered goody bags and family tickets to the aquarium for the school’s forthcoming raffle to replenish its book supplies.

Following the event, a staggering 80 per cent of pupils are now getting involved in reading recreationally.

‘We heard an appeal which the school put out asking local businesses to donate marine-themed soft toys for the children,’ said Blue Reef’s Hannah Butt.

‘The school created its own sewing club with teachers volunteering to sew up any holes in the toys before going on to make the reading bags and handing them over to the children,’ she added.

Ms Lyndon added: ‘So many children are now reading at home and we have seen a shift in attitude towards the importance of reading.

‘These bags were only possible due to the overwhelming generosity of Blue Reef and we are grateful for its continued support on this project.’