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Don your hard hats and read

When Lynn Small, head of Littleton Green Primary in Cannock, Staffs, was looking for male role models to help her boys read, she found them on the school's building site. "I'm a bit cheeky like that," she said. "You have to ask or you don't get."

Now every month, six boys put on hard hats and high-visibility jackets and read books to the workers building their new school.

It was between planning meetings for the new building two years ago that the idea came to Mrs Small.

"I thought I could spend this time doing something useful, so I asked if any of the workmen would listen to some of our children reading. They were a bit wary at first, but since September I have taken groups of six children down there."

Luke Jennings (above far left), 7, one of the boys who has taken part, said: "It's different because it's not the teacher I'm reading to. It's better because they let me read it."

Mrs Small runs the project as a competition for boys in Years 1 and 2, with the best six readers each month winning the chance to read to the men, who include architects, construction workers, accountants and the project manager.

"The person managing the building project then suggested raising money for new books for the school," Mrs Small said.

"We have the Oxford Reading Tree scheme, but they had heard about Project X (the publishers' scheme to encourage boys to read). They raised money with dress-down days and now we have Project X materials.

"The boys' reading was a big issue for us, as it is nationally. But they are really excited about this because it's quite competitive. It's a big incentive for them and they've made good progress. And the men who work here enjoy it - they like seeing the 'clients' and learn a bit about how to teach reading."

Phil Clempson, of management consultancy Turner and Townsend, said: "Our secondary project of listening to children read has been a hugely positive experience. It's rare you get to interact so readily with the end-users. Five-year-olds can be tough critics, but we've had tremendous feedback."

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