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Bookmark reading charity wants volunteers for Tower Hamlets schools to start new chapter in 2020

PUBLISHED: 18:14 11 December 2019 | UPDATED: 09:30 17 December 2019

Volunteers teaching children that reading can be fun. Picture: Orlando Gili

Volunteers teaching children that reading can be fun. Picture: Orlando Gili

Orlando Gili

A new charity is setting out to tackle child illiteracy with a New Year volunteer recruitment drive to help Tower Hamlets primary schools where a-quarter of the pupils fall below reading standard.

Bookmark charity now visits 27 London primary schools helping children improve their reading skills. Picture: Orlando GiliBookmark charity now visits 27 London primary schools helping children improve their reading skills. Picture: Orlando Gili

The Bookmark charity established in 2018 aims to take on volunteers to go into the classroom to help youngsters who end up unable to read well by the time they reach secondary education at 11.

The charity points out that 28 per cent were below the mark and failed to reach the expected standard last term by the time they left primary education, slightly worse than the 27pc national average.

Tower Hamlets has the highest child poverty in London, which Bookmark says is having an impact on youngsters' literacy skills.

Eight children in an average class of 30 left primary school last year unable to read properly, according to national literacy statistics.

Bookmark charity wants volunteers in the New Year to Bookmark charity wants volunteers in the New Year to "make sure children aren't held back by lacking such a fundamental skill" as reading. Picture: Orlando Gili

"We hope people will volunteer to make sure children aren't held back by lacking such a fundamental skill," Bookmark's chief executive Kitty Higgins said.

"We are working in Tower Hamlets to train people to help children to read, which is an essential skill in education and careers later on.

"Adults who struggle to read are more likely to have health problems, low confidence and even a shorter life expectancy."

Children who like the printed word are five times as likely to read above their age level than their peers, according to the National Literacy Trust. Adults who read for pleasure have greater ability to cope with difficult situations, according to its studies.

Bookmark charity now visits 27 London primary schools helping children improve their reading skills. Picture: Orlando GiliBookmark charity now visits 27 London primary schools helping children improve their reading skills. Picture: Orlando Gili

Bookmark is developing a programme for volunteers to visit their nearest school twice a week for six weeks, helping children aged five to eight develop reading skills and self-confidence.

One volunteer already working in a school in Mile End is Nasreen Farhana, a 20-year-old student from Queen Mary University who does one-to-one reading sessions with a young girl.

"The impact on her has been tremendous," Nasreen says. "She began to read complex sentences and comprehend a story.

"The spark and curiosity on her face when she came across a new word and learned what it meant made me feel proud."

Bookmark was founded last year with its programme in four London schools. It now has volunteers at 27 schools.

Volunteers are being urged to go to Bookmark's website to sign up or email info@bookmarkreading.org to "start a new chapter in 2020".

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