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X marks the spot for thousands of children
SCHOOLS which sign up to take part in the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign will be following in the footsteps of 1,000 nationwide.
That is how many schools have already used the Project X Code books, which will be used during the Oxfordshire programme.
The books are published by Oxford University Press, which is backing the campaign and giving schools a 20 per cent discount on the price of the materials.
Senior publisher Cath Haynes said: “Project X Code was conceived about 18 months to two years ago specifically to be a strand for reluctant readers.
“We already have a mainstream programme called Project X. This was to make sure the 20 per cent of the classroom who struggle with reading were able to join in the adventure.”
The phonics-based programme, which follows the adventures of four characters, has rolled out to 1,000 schools across the country.
A study of 70 children who took reading tests before and after reading the books showed they made more than treble the normal rate of progress in phonics and more than twice the usual rate of progress in sentence structure.
The programme starts with an animation for children to watch before they start reading.
Mrs Haynes said: “We hook them into reading through a medium that really appeals to them. Any child who struggles with reading very quickly gives up and becomes demotivated, so our job with an early intervention is to say to children reading is interesting, it’s exciting and you can do it.
“The ultimate aim is to make them readers for life.”
OUP hosted the headteachers’ conference launching the reading campaign, and many workers at the company already volunteer as readers through the charity Assisted Reading for Children. More have signed up to volunteer with the reading campaign since its launch.
Mrs Haynes said: “We recognise the importance of children's literacy and, as a local organisation, we really wanted to get involved in raising literacy standards in the county.”
Mrs Haynes, a mother of two, has personal experience of reluctant readers. Her daughter, Poppy, eight, is only just beginning to develop enthusiasm for reading.
She said: “The irony is not lost on me that I spent most of my career making specialist reading schemes, then had a daughter who struggled to read.
“I read with Poppy every night. She reads to me and I try to find books that will engage her so she wants to come back the next week and keep reading.
“It's absolutely essential to my daughter she becomes somebody who picks up a book for pleasure and I think we are almost there.”
Conversely, as it is often boys who struggle with reading, her older son Dylan, 10, is a keen reader.
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THE CAMPAIGN'S GOALS:
The Oxfordshire Reading Campaign was launched by Oxfordshire County Council, backed by the Oxford Mail, to improve reading standards in the youngest children. The goals are to:
- Improve the proportion of children who reach Level 2B at Key Stage 1 to 86 per cent – a rise of 12 percentage points.
Increase enjoyment of and confidence in reading.
Eighty-one schools across the county, chosen based on Key Stage 1 results over the past three years, are being invited to take part.
The campaign is being run by the National Literacy Trust and will involve:
- A reading intervention programme called Project X Code working with Year 2 children in up to 81 county primaries.
- Volunteers coming in to schools to read one-to-one with the children involved in the Project X Code programme.
'Inside a book, every child is in charge of their own expedition'
Becky Hallsmith, left, is the owner of the Ultimate Picture Palace independent cinema in East Oxford.
She is the latest figure from Oxford’s art scene to lend her support to the Oxfordshire Reading Campaign.
She added: “Inside a book every child is in charge of their own expedition.”
What was your favourite book when you were small and why did you love it?
The first book I read by myself was Doctor Dolittle. Animals that spoke! And that were smarter than the human grown-ups! My father was reading it with me at bedtimes – one morning I woke up desperate to know what happened next so I opened the book and found out.
What about the books you enjoy reading now?
I’m a fast and voracious reader and all fiction appeals to me: from the classics (I find something new in Middlemarch every time I read it); through Booker Prize contenders to American detective fiction. I am a huge fan of George Pelecanos who writes about the underbelly of Washington DC – cracking good stories written with such vitality you can practically hear what the characters are saying and the music they are listening to.
Why is it important for children to read?
Reading, as well as being an intense pleasure in itself, arms a child with words – and life really is much easier if you can get people to understand what you are trying to say.
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