Castlecomer Community School’s first-year students and their parents have taken up a challenge to read a book together over the next six weeks, with the aim of boosting the students’ literacy skills and encouraging families to share the reading experience together.
The students and parents gathered in the school on Thursday evening, and each received a starter pack for the “Ready for Reading 2012” initiative – of which the main ingredient was Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo, the book that the readers of all ages are being asked to read. The school is sponsoring the books, so each student had to pay only €2 for his or her copy.
Tullow Community School is also bringing in the initiative as a pilot project, with five students and five teachers reading the same book, and next year the two schools are planning to join up their programmes.
On hand to kick off the initiative was Martin Fogarty, principal in Firoda NS and selector for Kilkenny senior hurling panel.
In many ways, he said, learning to read is like learning to swim.
“If you can show someone how to swim, you are giving them a gift for life,” he said, even if they don’t turn out to be champion swimmers. “Reading is the very same. Some people find it very easy and some people find it very, very difficult. But for parents, if you get into it, give them a little bit of help, a bit of a nudge, they will take it on. You don’t have to be a brilliant reader. You don’t have to be Michael Phelps, You just have to have that support.”
And support at home, he said, is what will help a child to succeed. “Every child has the same chance in school, but the difference is made at home,” he said. “Whatever level your child is at – push them, tug them, cajole them, get them on the road of reading. In later years they will thank you.”
And the idea isn’t limited to just the selected book. The students also received a list of other books for their age group – many of which are available at the Castlecomer library – and membership forms for the library, which all were urged to fill in on the night.
Vice principal Paul Behan said the school’s reading initiatives were making a noticeable difference since they began three years ago. “Some kids, when they finish a test, will pull out a book and start reading,” he said. “And one student was in detention today – and while he was waiting to see the principal, he was reading a book.”