Hesitant adult readers mean children lose out

23rd May 2008 at 01:00
Some foster carers and care home workers are failing to encourage looked-after children to read because they are "not confident readers themselves", according to a report published today
Some foster carers and care home workers are failing to encourage looked-after children to read because they are "not confident readers themselves", according to a report published today.

The Reading Rich programme, which ran from 2004-07, set out to create a "reading rich" environment for children in residential and foster care to give them an environment similar to that in which "more privileged children are raised".

The seven reading projects were delivered by National Children's Homes Scotland across a range of care settings, and supported by the Scottish Book Trust, which provided reading resources and access to authors. The programme had a "huge impact" on the young people involved, writes independent consultant Maureen Finn, who talked to 41 children and their carers for her evaluation report for the Scottish Government.

Ms Finn found it made a difference to the knowledge, frequency and depth of reading of the participants. It also had an unforeseen impact on their emotional development, helping them "to understand the world of others and to make sense of their own worlds".

One of the "unforeseen challenges" was the difficulty in involving some foster carers and residential staff, she notes.

"At times, the delivery of the programme was hindered by inconsistent support from foster carers and residential care staff," says the report. "The main issues related to carers' own knowledge, attitudes and confidence in using literature for young people."

It identifies a "variety of contributing factors" to this problem, including:

- Inadequate knowledge of literature appropriate for the young people in their care;

- Limited communication and literacy skills: many carers did not read with the young people and were unsure of how to share reading, particularly with older children; and

- Insecurity over their own reading ability: in some cases, the carers were not confident readers themselves and felt vulnerable becoming involved in the programme.

Future Reading Rich programmes must provide more intensive training for carers, Ms Finn concludes.

"Some of these children have become disaffected with the whole educational system. The only chance they are going to have to develop a love of reading is out of school, so how carers or staff motivate them to think about books in a positive way is essential," she notes.

NCH Scotland declined to comment on the report.

- 'Evaluation of Reading Rich: NCH Scotland's Reading Rich Programme delivered by the Scottish Book Trust', by Maureen Finn, www.scotland.gov.ukpublications.

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