Boost for scheme that gets children fired up over books

ENJOYABLE Natalie Kalokova, 11, and Kai Harrison, 11, with Read for Life volunteer Anne Ralph at Somers Park Primary School.  Picture: Steve Reid (121137-137)
ENJOYABLE Natalie Kalokova, 11, and Kai Harrison, 11, with Read for Life volunteer Anne Ralph at Somers Park Primary School. Picture: Steve Reid (121137-137)
Picture: Malcolm Wells

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A PORTSMOUTH social enterprise that has given hundreds of primary schoolchildren a love of reading is celebrating a funding boost.

Read for Life will add eight reading volunteers to its army of 34 – thanks to a £17,264 grant from The Equitable Charitable Trust.

An extra 72 children in Portsmouth and Havant will benefit from weekly one-to-one reading sessions which have been proven to accelerate reading skills.

The organisers say the secret to Read for Life’s success is letting the child dictate the terms.

Rather than force-feed books, youngsters explore subjects that fire up their imaginations, and choose between word games or reading their favourite books.

One school that will continue to benefit from the scheme, which has signed up to The News’ campaign Read All About It, is Somers Park Primary.

Every week, Kai Harrison and Natalie Kalokova, both 11, fight over who will read first with volunteer Anne Ralph, a retired NSPCC administrator.

Kai said: ‘Every time I struggle with a word Anne helps me pronounce it and tells me what it means. It’s much better than reading on my own and I’m getting better every day.’

He added: ‘My favourite books are about Doctor Who, Star Wars and Star Trek. I like space – it makes me wonder what’s out there.’

Natalie, whose first language is Czech, said: ‘If you don’t know how to say a word Anne makes you repeat it three times and it works.

‘I look forward to reading with Anne because it’s fun. I get to read books that make me laugh, and I’m always learning new things.’

Mrs Ralph says she derives huge satisfaction from seeing children achieve their full reading potential with her help.

She said: ‘This is about making reading fun. If they start a book and don’t like it, we put it away.’

At Somers Park, which has also signed up to our literacy campaign, teachers run weekly sessions to show parents how their children are taught reading – and give them top tips on how to make reading fun at home.

Teacher Miranda Tabraham said: ‘The important thing is to get children reading for pleasure.

‘It’s easy to see how much Kai and Natalie have benefited from Read for Life – they’re constantly hassling me for books now.’

Sukhi Hazra, joint volunteer co-ordinator of Read for Life, is now on the lookout for new volunteers who will support pupils at Charles Dickens Juniors, Flying Bull Primary, Milton Park Primary and Front Lawn Juniors in Leigh Park.

She said: ‘We need people who can commit, who enjoy working with children and who can pass on their love of reading.’

To apply call (023) 9266 0083 before May 25.