Reading Better all the time

4th November 2005 at 00:00
Caroline Gulsen says that the hand of fate led her to become a tutor with Better Reading, a schools family literacy programme launched six years ago.

Her desire to encourage her son with his reading as he entered the reception class at Coed Ffranc infants, Skewen, near Neath, drove Mrs Gulsen to attend a 20-week course held on the school's premises.

Her ability and enthusiasm made her the prime candidate to fill an unexpected tutor vacancy for the following course.

And her own teaching abilities were recognised at yesterday's Adult Tutor of the Year awards in Wrexham, when she received a City Guilds prize for her work.

The annual awards are organised by NIACE Dysgu Cymru, a non-governmental organisation that promotes adult learning.

"I wasn't even looking for a job at the time," recalls the 39-year-old.

"But it seems as though it was my destiny to follow this path."

Now, as a Better Reading co-ordinator and tutor with Neath Port Talbot's lifelong learning service, she tutors at eight schools, giving parents the tools to help their children become proficient readers.

"The key to helping children to read is to create a relaxed atmosphere where they can learn without feeling pressured," she says. "The Better Learning philosophy allows children to work words out for themselves, as they remember better that way. The tutor is there to encourage and prompt."

Mrs Gulsen's two children, Arin, eight, and four-year-old Amber, are now both well into books.

"Arin struggled to start with, but now he's doing fine," she says. "That is a huge relief to me, as being able to read properly is such a crucial part of a child's development. Without this basic skill, grasping the other curriculum subjects is so much harder."

She pays tribute to lively, colourful books, such as The Gruffalo, that capture the imagination. And if a child is struggling she hunts out picture books.

"They can relate the words to the images, which helps a great deal. I also find that a larger print helps those who are experiencing difficulties, as the text looks more inviting and approachable."

Bethan Blackmore, Skewen local action centre manager, said: "Caroline can draw on her own recent experiences of returning to learning, and is committed to helping her students on to the first step of their learning journey."

* The other winners were Caroline Ann Andrews, Kim Oyston, Jan Gardner, Sue Horder, Jackie Owen, Amanda Jayne Frayne, Debra Perry, Elizabeth Ann Brickell, Clive Jenkins, Louise Powell and Ian Goddard.

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