A PIONEERING school scheme that encourages pupils as young as four to visit their local library is paying huge dividends.
The Wicor Ten programme, launched by Wicor Primary in Fareham and Hampshire Library Service in 2001, is a major factor in the school’s year-on-year improvement in literacy.
It works by giving families a reading list of 12 books available at Portchester Library – and of these, they can choose 10 to read with their children before coming up for their first day of school.
Headteacher Mark Wildman says the scheme is proving its worth, with every school leaver who joined Wicor in reception class making expected progress or better in reading.
Mr Wildman, who invests £300 a year to stock up his school library with the books on the list, says he is delighted to boast a school full of library members.
He said: ‘It’s a simple idea but it’s very effective and it encourages children to make good use of their library from an early age.
‘The benefits are obvious to the school and the children.
‘They have a wider experience of books, they read with their families over the summer holidays, there’s a real promotion of the love of reading and they are highly motivated by the familiarity of these books when starting school.
‘It’s a voluntary challenge but last year every single pupil who joined us completed it.’
Due to the huge success rates, Wicor expanded the scheme during term-time for children up to the age of seven.
Youngsters who take part in the Wicor Treasure Hunt read a book from the library each month, and in return get their ‘reading passport’ stamped and win a piece of treasure like a coin or jewellery for their treasure box.
This in turn feeds into a project around collectors’ items supported by experts from Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham.
Pupils have praised the scheme. Cole McIntosh, four, said: ‘My favourite book was about ghosts and it had vampires in it. I went to the library with my mum and read books because the school asked me to and it was fun.’
George Harrison, seven, said: ‘The challenge has made me visit the library lots, and I enjoy going there because there are so many good books to choose from.
‘Reading is vital for everything in life – even for reading maps when I go mountain climbing and travelling abroad.’
Brooke Gordon, seven, added: ‘It’s so important to be a library member because this is the age when you can get really good at reading.
‘It’s amazing how authors bring words to life – you learn so much from books and we’re lucky to have so many of them!’
Wicor’s library scheme, which includes monthly visits to Portchester Library that has put up a special noticeboard for pupils, complements a wider ‘reading culture’ at the school.
This includes regular author and poet visits, reading challenges and investment in new technology including a Kindle electronic reader to give youngsters access to a range of approaches.
Mr Wildman, whose school has signed up to The News’ literacy campaign Read All About It to boost reading across the area, said: ‘At Wicor we believe that reading is the most fundamental skill a child can have.
‘Reading is the gateway to the curriculum. Children are scuppered if they can’t read, as it is underpins everything.’