University keeps more than 250 pupils reading during latest lockdown

Year 7 pupils at two local schools have been encouraged to read and boost their literacy during lockdown, thanks to a Swansea University project.

The South West Wales Reaching Wider Partnership is running two book clubs with two schools to encourage young people to read and engage with books while also boosting literacy.

The Reaching Wider Partnership, whose members include Swansea University, works with pupils, families and adults from deprived areas in Swansea, Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire along with care-experienced young people and carers across the region.

Dylan Thomas Community School pupils are part of a book club focusing on The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson, a novel about a teenager with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This book helps pupils to understand mental health and to have empathy for others.

Year 7s at Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School are reading Roald Dahl’s The Witches, a book chosen by the pupils.

Both book clubs are primarily virtual, with the Reaching Wider team uploading resources every week. The activities include quizzes, matching activities, as well as videos and audio clips created by the team.

Video and audio content is also being created by four dedicated Reaching Wider Student Leaders, who are filming short clips based on the chapter of the week, which gives the pupils some literacy role models as well as an opportunity to virtually meet university students from a range of disciplines. This promotes reading as something fun to do in your spare time, rather than something just literature students do for work.

However, as an incentive to take part in the book club, physical packs have been sent out to all pupils, including the book, some pens, a bookmark, and the first week’s activities. Pupils will then receive a physical pack every four to six weeks.

Dr Heidi Yeandle, Reaching Wider Events Coordinator and organiser of the clubs, said: “This project gives all participants a new book as well as the opportunity to hear different interpretations and thoughts about a novel - something they may not have otherwise. We hope it encourages a love of reading in young people who thought reading wasn’t for them.”

Shania Evans, temporary programme assistant who is responsible for creating the resources, added: “As well as giving the pupils an incentive to participate, we wanted to ensure everyone had access to the same resources and equipment. We want to boost morale by providing fun and engaging physical resources they can complete while being home-schooled.”

The book clubs are currently ongoing until May with new book clubs starting in the summer.

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