All aboard for the missing letters

17th July 1998 at 01:00
John Cairney finds pre-fives are not lost for words on Glasgow's transport trail

If it had happened a week later, it might not have drawn a second look. But there were still seven days to go to the beginning of the Glasgow Fair holidays and the sight of 15 pre-school children and 12 adults walking in file across the concourse of the city's Central Station must have stimulated the odd quizzical comment.

Passengers would have been even more intrigued when the file broke up into five smaller groups and embarked on a word treasure hunt, stopping periodically for an animated huddle and sticking letters on to a large piece of coloured card - T for train, H for hotel and B for bomb (the bomb was actually a shell but the "sh" sound would have to wait another day).

M for "mad mugs" stumped one group, including the adults, until Jordan, aged four, caught sight of a display of tea and coffee mugs in the window of one of the shops.

The children came from the Pollok children's centre and were taking part in a family literacy project. The project is part of Glasgow's early intervention scheme, which has annual Government backing of almost Pounds 5 million over five years.

The early intervention programme concentrates on the under-fives and the first two primary years. Two family literacy workers have been seconded to help a team of teachers and nursery staff encourage parents to become involved in their children's reading development.

The Pollok centre was one of three locations piloting a summer programme to introduce parents and children to the joys of reading through the theme of transport. The visit to Central Station was the first of three, followed by others to the Museum of Transport and Pollok library.

The children's centre had eight nursery nurses working with 74 children and their parents or carers for the two-week duration of the project, which finished today (Friday). Children whose parents could not travel in with them were accompanied by a member of staff, while older children in the family could make use of the centre's cr che.

Catriona Murdoch said the cr che was "an ideal opportunity for parents to leave their school-age children in safety and spend some time in a one-to-one experience with a younger child".

When they were not visiting stations, museums or libraries, the children and their parents worked together in the centre on a variety of activities related to transport. These covered rhyme, books and games intended to assist the children with reading, writing and communication skills.

David Wallace, one of the family literacy workers, said some parents do not always appreciate the value of early intervention. He hoped the project would "unlock parental talent".

"We want parents to think of what they are doing as an interest and not a chore," Mr Wallace said, "and we want them to get some pleasure out of their involvement."

Jackie Johnson, mother of four-year-old Selena, said: "I appreciate the opportunity to work alongside the centre staff as well as the other parents. I'm learning a lot about how everyday signs and notices can be used to improve reading."

One of the retail outlets in Central Station displayed a piece of "environmental print" with which the children were already familiar, so anybody who might have had a problem matching the B to bomb would have had no problem connecting it to Burger King, where the group finished on the day we visited.

Incidentally, one group lost their letter and if anyone stumbles on a half-inch square cardboard T with a Velcro backing, would they please return it to Jordan, care of Pollok children's centre, 8 Netherplace Crescent.

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