Derby's biggest employer, Rolls-Royce, has been at the industrial heart of the city for many generations. Now, the high performing aero engine manufacturer is giving a boost to schools by sponsoring, with the US software company EDS, the Book Bug scheme launched by Reading is Fundamental UK, which is part of the National Literacy Trust.
The pilot scheme provides books to all the local education authority's six-year-olds and could inspire similar projects. Reading is Fundamental UK director Roy Blatchford says: "This is a three-way equal partnership between us, the private sector and the local authority. It's a model we're hoping to roll out to the rest of the country." The organisation believes that having a local co-ordinator is essential to the success of the project.
Both business sponsors have committed to funding the project for two years. The funding helps to employ a part-time co-ordinator, Hilary Marshall, who has been seconded from the city's library service. She has drawn up lists of books the schools can choose from, and has organised in-service training for schools, school-based events, holiday activities, competitions and author readings at libraries. She says: "Our emphasis is on choice, letting children choose from different categories - fiction, non-fiction, poetry, information books. We encourage them to browse and take time choosing. Having an adult decide for you is not very helpful."
The local authority, Derby City Council, has started the scheme in 28 infants schools and next year will involve all primary schools. Steph Bell, the primary English adviser, says: "Literacy is a huge issue in the city. Having two high-profile companies involved is a good role model and helps teachers realise they have a lot of support for what they are doing."
Rolls-Royce also supports a family literacy scheme, Read On Write Away, involving schools all over Derbyshire. Rolls-Royce community relations manager Alan Mullarkey says: "We're very keen to support our local community and are considering setting up a scheme to send volunteers into local schools to hear pupils read."