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'Success at school depends on reading'
OXFORD Brookes University has thrown its weight behind the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.
The organisation trains hundreds of teachers each year, many of whom end up working in Oxfordshire schools.
The university is aiming to support the campaign by providing volunteers from its student and staff.
Dr Helena Mitchell is head of the school of education based at the university’s Harcourt Hill campus.
She said: “We are totally committed to literacy and we see it as being absolutely crucial. It’s fundamental to absolutely everything that children do.”
The exact way in which the university will be involved is still being hammered out, but Brookes actively encourages students and staff to volunteer.
Debbie Wright, senior lecturer in primary English, said she believed it could provide a “win-win” opportunity for students who were training to become teachers.
Many of them have already carried out work experience in primary schools, and those on the four-year work-based learning degree course spend one day a week as a teaching assistant in a school.
Ms Wright said: “We already have strong links with schools through our partnerships. “This would provide students with an additional opportunity to offer something to children’s lives.
“From our student’s point of view, they learn how to teach children reading within lessons at university and this gives them an opportunity to apply that knowledge hands on.”
Dr Mitchell added: “We also see it as a way of working more closely with the schools. There are lots of things that would make us want to be involved in projects like this.
“We know they are successful, both to children involved but also to our students.”
The pair, who have 27 years of primary school teaching experience between them, emphasised the importance of good literacy skills early on.
Equally important, they said, was to create a love of the written word.
Ms Wright said: “The real knock-on effect for children who struggle with reading is they lose interest, motivation and engagement with reading.
“Catching children early on and making them successful readers is really important. As with all skills, the sooner they can develop that love of reading and success with reading, the better.
“It’s extremely important to get that enthusiasm, motivation and teaching in order to ensure children are successful early.”
Dr Mitchell added: “They can’t access the curriculum if they can’t read. It’s key to everything.”
Both professionals said they would love to be able to act as volunteers in schools themselves, time commitments permitting.