We see the early years as the most important area of our work, which will ultimately have the greatest impact on raising literacy levels.
The first 2 to 3 years are the most vital in a child's development, and we believe reading, singing and talking to a child from birth provides an essential launchpad for their future success.
So, the emphasis is on engaging new parents/carers and encouraging them to communicate frequently with their child (rather than their phone!!) and guide them to develop the habit of reading/singing with the child at every bedtime, giving them the best possible start in life, and bonding with them through the pleasure of shared activities.
LTR wants to get these messages across to all parents and carers, from before a child is born and throughout their infancy. So, we partner with Suffolk Babies, who run ante-natal and post-natal classes; with our help, these classes now include a stronger emphasis on talking, singing and nursery rhymes.
We want to help Suffolk Babies to provide their wonderful classes close to the greatest need, where they can easily be accessed by struggling families. It may take a further 12 to 18 months to achieve this in all areas of the town.
To engage with parents of 2 to 4-year-olds, we visit 40 playgroups and nurseries across the town, including Children's Centres, and these visits are currently termly, but we hope to be able to resource half-termly, or even more frequent visits. During these visits we demonstrate to parents and staff the power of reading to children, how much they love books, and how to read successfully, including using puppets and songs. We call this Storytime. These visits are carried out by our team of dedicated volunteers.
We are working closely with the Ipswich Opportunity Area to develop sustainable support to ante and post-natal classes, encouraging parents to get involved with their children's reading, and helping staff in nurseries and playgroups make the most of reading with children.
Do you know that:
- Three in 10 children in the UK do not own a single book
- Only 8% of parents read to their children from birth
- 54% of parents who have school age children read with them for less than 1 hour a week
- 22% of parents never read with their children
- A 20-year international study shows that the greatest predictor of a child's academic success is the presence of books in the home regardless of parents level of education or economic status
Therefore, anticipating that many struggling Ipswich families don't have access to books at home we provide free book-bags for them, distributing the bags via local Children's Centres, health visitors, schools and organisations like HomeStart and ICENI . We give away over 1000 book-bags per year to 0 to 4-year-olds via nurseries, playgroups and Suffolk Babies.
Our volunteers also take part in local community fairs and regularly visit the Jobcentre and libraries, talking to parents and offering children free book-bags. At Storytime sessions we encourage parents and carers to join and use the local library which has a great range of books for children, and offer sessions for parents, carers and children to enjoy singing, reading and socialising.
We all have to recognise that as many as 1 in 3 struggling parents will probably have low literacy skills, will struggle to read with their children, will struggle to engage with their education and will struggle to deal with modern life. Our sister charity,Read Easy Ipswich offers one to one help to adults struggling to read. We make sure that Suffolk Babies, playgroups, nurseries, schools and community groups know about Read Easy and can signpost parents and carers to them.