Council to improve literacy skills with £100,000 boost

Parents and carers are set to receive help to support their children’s pre-school reading and writing skills if proposals for £100,000 funding from Derbyshire County Council are approved.

Council Leader Councillor Andrew Lewer has announced that Cabinet approval would be sought to develop projects over the next two years to give parents the help they need to support the early development of language and literacy skills in their children.

He said: “Language and literacy skills are critical to life chances and I would be keen for everyone to get behind this initiative to help parents better understand how to support their children’s development.

“We have carried out extensive consultation with parents to find out how we can help them best and aim to develop projects in partnership with a range of other agencies to meet these needs.

“This would be a fantastic opportunity for us to develop initiatives like volunteer mentor schemes within communities and to make sure all parents know about the support and help available through our children’s centres, libraries and adult education courses.

“We want to make sure that all parents get the information and support they need in the way that is most helpful to them.”

Detailed plans have not yet been developed but it is anticipated support would be provided through libraries and children’s centres, midwives and health visitors and also directly into local communities via parents and carers who volunteer to be trained as mentors and buddies to support other mums and dads.

It is also hoped the initiative would encourage parents to develop their own literacy skills to open up wider employment opportunities and – as the foundation for learning language is set in children before their third birthday – to help their children develop the skills necessary for them to have happier and healthier lives.

According to the National Literacy Trust around one in six adults in England have reading and writing levels of an average 11-year-old. In Derbyshire this means around 100,000 adults will be challenged by reading and writing.

Many jobs are not open to people with low literacy skills and parents may also struggle to support their children with reading and homework. Many also do not realise how important pre-school years are to language and literacy development – or what they need to do to help these skills develop.

The county council already supports many projects in Derbyshire where adults with reading or writing challenges can get help such as free ‘skills for life’ adult education classes, Family Learning courses for parents and children to learn together, ‘Parents Early Education Partnership’ at its children’s centre and a wide range of family-friendly activities in libraries such as ‘Rhyme and Rhythm’ and story time.

Coun Lewer added: “People who have poor reading and writing skills often learn to hide their problem.

“Subject to Cabinet approval this funding would allow us to develop projects to help tackle the stigma and encourage people to step forward and get help.

“It would also highlight how improving reading and writing can be fun and rewarding – and show it is never too late.”