Caring to Read, Bolton
This project aims to improve the educational attainment of looked-after children and young people in Bolton to at least that of their peers, through fun, creative learning. It does this through improving access to books, reading and library services; running fun events with practical opportunities for learning; building confidence and self-esteem, supporting children to achieve their potential at school and in life; and offering support to carers.
Caring to Read was initiated by Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council, and is managed day-to-day by a coordinator employed by Bolton Literacy Trust (BLT). Funding comes from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation. The steering group is made up of representatives from Bolton Metro education department, social services, library services and other departments. They meet monthly and also form the steering group for other literacy-related projects.
This group, known as Right to Read, was formed following a conference organised by Bolton Metro and its Corporate Children's Officer (a post created in 1999 to encourage all council departments to become involved in the lives of looked-after children). At the conference, local authority departments were invited to consult with looked-after children and carers to find out first hand how their services affected them. Literacy emerged as an important issue and the group came together to focus efforts to promote it. For example, when it was found that young people in residential care homes were not accessing comics or magazines, the library service was willing and able to fill the gap.
What goes on
- Computer activities and website design, making Storysacks, library events, theatre review writing, music-based activities, silk painting
- An event based around Bolton Literacy Trust's Playstation-style 'KIT' machine, allowing learning through games
- A website for looked-after children in Bolton: www.plodge.org.uk. This features reading ideas, *Caring to Read events, competitions and quizzes, and encourages contributions from young people, such as creative writing and good reads recommendations
- Summer holiday activity packs
Other aspects of the project
- Supplying books on specific issues, such as bullying, emotions and dealing with family breakdown to a Social Services venue regularly accessed by carers
- Inviting all carers to request a book as a Christmas present for any child they were looking after
- A Reading The Game project in partnership with Bolton Football Club, as part of Reading is Fundamental, UK (RIF)
- The BLT's Family Learning Centre, offering support services and informal courses, a drop-in space for advice about reading and learning for all ages, and a range of books for children and adults that can be borrowed by any carer
- Literacy support for carers on a discreet, one-to-one basis, focusing on building confidence and suggesting courses if appropriate; offering carers home visits to talk through any issues around the education of the children they care for
- Involving the Caring to Read coordinator in Family Placement Team meetings and residential team meetings
- Information packs for carers being produced by library services
Looked-after children and carers do not want to be seen as a 'specialist' group needing their own events; it is better to include provision for them in more inclusive events with other children After school is a busy time for both children and carers - it is better to hold events in school holidays.
Children who have just come into care are under a lot of stress and may not want or have time to come to events.
Statistics on attendance at events, numbers of looked-after children joining libraries, and RIF registrations are recorded. Staff are evaluating what works and what doesn't, and building a strategy to take the work forward. Some of the comments received after events are: Very enjoyable … L. said it was very fun and she will come back. I like it very much … I wish it was longer … I'm glad that I got to play on the big Playstation [KIT machine]. I want to come to another one!
More on Bolton Literacy Trust:
- General information
- Bolton Literacy Trust's work with fathers
- Website: www.boltonliteracytrust.org.uk
- The Paul Hamlyn Foundation: www.phf.org.uk
- More on Reading The Game
- More on Reading Is Fundamental, UK
For the Bolton looked-after children and young people's website visit www.plodge.org.uk