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Literacy and Learning: Inspiring a Love of Reading in Young People

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The BBC recently published the findings of a report run by publisher Pearson, in which 410 UK teachers were asked about their student's attitudes to reading for pleasure. More than two-fifths of the teachers polled felt that children had lost interest in reading by the time they had finished primary school, and 94% thought that students preferred to spend time online.

Low literacy in young people is one of the crucial issues that IntoUniversity tackles, and we support children from the age of seven throughout their school years to the age of 18. We believe that children need to be inspired from a young age, and recognise that a child developing a love of reading means they do better overall at school.

Our local learning centres provide after-school academic support for primary and secondary school students, and students are supported with their literacy and numeracy skills as well as their homework, revision and support with applications to higher education. We also run a mentoring scheme and a specially-tailored FOCUS programme that we deliver in partnership with schools, universities and businesses. Our focus is on raising the aspirations of young people and inspiring them to achieve.

We have a library at each of our centres, and we encourage our students to read during after-school academic support sessions and to take books home with them to read on their own. Each of our centres runs initiatives to encourage young people to read. For example, primary academic support at our Haringey centre always begins with a reading session where children choose a book to read with the support of staff and volunteers, and students at our North Kensington centre enjoy writing reading logs and book reviews.

A particularly inspiring success story took place at our centre in Hackney. Jeanice started attending academic support sessions at the centre in Year 5, and her confidence in reading was very low. She refused to read in class and had no interest in reading on her own. But after being matched with a mentor who encouraged her to read and supported her as she learned, Jeanice has experienced a remarkable change. She now reads freely during academic support at the centre, and regularly takes books home from the centre's library. The students were recently taken on an Extending Horizons weekend trip to Blaxhall in Surrey, and Richard Watson, the centre leader at IntoUniversity's Hackney centre, was delighted to find Jeanice reading a Judy Blume book out loud to the other children. It shows how far she has come.

"Encouraging children to read for pleasure from an early age is so important," says Richard. "It means they become more confident and comfortable with reading, and inspires them to read in other areas, which sets them on track to do well at school. Jeanice's teacher has told us how much her new-found love of reading has enthused her learning and raised her academic levels in all her subjects."

While the Pearson survey has highlighted the need to inspire a love of reading in children, it is encouraging to know that with the right support, young people can make huge improvements in their literacy level. At IntoUniversity, we recognise the potential in every child and we are proud to be part of a solution to a problem that doesn't need to exist.