Parents are written into the action

4th July 1997 at 01:00
On bleak housing estates in Leicester the Linwood Centre project run by Charles Keene College puts parents' literacy at the heart of their children's education, writes Victoria Millar.

It started when Sue Barnes, Linwood's family literacy co-ordinator, heard the parents in her basic skills classes say that they would never want their children to go through what they had gone through. Many of them, though energetic and highly-motivated, could not read with confidence. Almost all were unemployed.

Thus parents of pupils at Newry junior school in Leicester came in to the school to research and write a prospectus, a project singled out for praise by Helena Kennedy.

In Eyres Monsell primary the Linwood Centre worked with parents to produce a new model of family reading groups. Family literacy courses are now run across the city.

One approach, Sue Barnes explains, is for the parents to make a picture book of the child's own words. "It helps where a child is having trouble reading conventional books. It gives them a book they know intimately because it is theirs." The picture book also develops parental skills as they write, illustrate, make up and read it to the children.

After the 10-week in-school courses run by the centre parents stay in touch through daily visits.

The centre has also run three "parents as governors" courses on the estates so that would-be governors were prepared for the local authority training.

Once the courses have begun their effect spreads. Not least because their best advertising happens at the school gates.

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