Reading for the young promoted on the factory floor;FE Focus

8th January 1999 at 00:00
A mini-library in the canteen is generating a new enthusiasm for books among Ford workers in South Wales

In the canteen a production-line worker saunters over to take a look at the children's books on display. Librarian Margaret Griffiths spots him and pounces.

She starts to run through the titles with him - they include books by celebrated authors Anne Fine, Dick King Smith and Alan Ahlberg, as well as non-fiction titles on subjects ranging from rock band Oasis to how to care for your hamster.

"My daughter's only three days old," says the employee, though that doesn't deter Mrs Griffiths, who steers him towards the selection of baby books. "Well - they're never too young to start," she says.

The predominantly male workforce at the Ford engine plant in Bridgend, South Wales, are the target of a pilot scheme to encourage fathers to read with their children.

This initiative - believed to be the first of its kind in the UK - is being run through Ford's Employee Development and Assistance Programme in partnership with the Welsh Office and Bridgend Library and Information Service as part of the National Year of Reading.

A mini-library of children's books in English and Welsh is on display in the canteen rest area. Meanwhile Bridgend library staff tour the tables, handing out leaflets and chatting to employees over their curry and chips.

"It's really about getting the message across about the importance of reading and fathers taking an interest in reading," says Margaret Griffiths.

"I tried to choose books of interest to boys, mainly because of the publicity given to the under-achievement of boys. We thought perhaps they needed more positive role models. This exhibition is to make the people who work here aware of the fantastic range of books there is. We hope to encourage some of them to join the public library as well."

So far the display has had a mixed response, she said. "Some men don't want to show themselves up in front of their mates. And some make a bit of a joke about it. That's why the books are going to stay here in an office, so they can go and have a look on their own."

The Ford EDAP adult education scheme has been running for nine years, offering a range of non-work-related courses, ranging from the most basic skills training to courses at sub-degree level. Martin Lloyd, who runs EDAP at Bridgend, says: "We felt this was worth while simply to raise people's awareness of the range of books available to children, but also to raise awareness of the need to spend time reading with them."

Ford technical clerk and father-of-one Clive Jones approaches to ask about joining his local library in Pontypridd. He is enthusiastic about the scheme.

"I've got one lad of five who's in primary school and he's just starting to learn to read. I feel I could help him with some of these books.

"I think the onus is on us to try and encourage our children to read."

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