Two research-informed community projects by academic and professional colleagues at the University of Reading’s Institute of Education (IoE) won funding from the University’s Community Fund grant. According to the grant webpage, funded projects must involve “working with and for the benefit of a local Reading community group or individual(s) and should be located within a 5-mile radius of Reading town centre”. This is a great way for IoE academics to use research to generate real-world impact at the local level.
Project 1: Multilingual Storytime (January 2022 – July 2022)
Dr. Holly Joseph (Associate Professor of Language Education and Literacy Development) and Dr. Naomi Flynn (Associate Professor of Primary English Education) – have joined forces with Charlotte Dormer (IoE’s Learning Hub Manager), and Judy McDevitt (who runs the University’s Students in School programme) to run multilingual storytime events in Reading nurseries. It brings University of Reading multilingual students into four local nurseries to read stories in community languages and English, and its purpose is to promote multilingual storytelling and model this as good practice to parents and early years practitioners.
Led by Charlotte Dormer and funded by a University of Reading Community Fund grant, the project attends to the recognised post-pandemic need to enhance the language learning experiences of all children by providing talk-rich environments in which both English and community languages are heard and used.
Each storytelling event will also be an opportunity for the IoE researchers to share their research-informed advice with parents and practitioners about the benefits of raising children multilingually and the ways that parents can support their children to maintain their home language(s) while learning English. Events will take place from January 2022 onwards and will be a fantastic opportunity for the University to engage with and support its local community.
Project 2: Reading together: An intergenerational community literacy initiative in Whitley (January 2022 – July 2022)
The extent to which children experience books and shared storybook reading activities at home (known as the home literacy environment; HLE) is a strong predictor of school-entry skills in language and literacy (Senechal & Lefevre, 2002), which in turn have been strongly linked to later academic success (Stanovich, 1986). Linked to the HLE, it is also known that children from disadvantaged backgrounds tend to be weaker and less enthusiastic readers. Early literacy experiences tend to be passed down the generations so supporting parents in developing skills and confidence in reading to their children, as well as reading for their own enjoyment, could lead to long-term benefits for disadvantaged children.
Led by Dr. Holly Joseph (Associate Professor of Language Education and Literacy Development) and Dr. Daisy Powell (Associate Professor in the Psychology of Written Language), their ‘Reading together’ project has two main aims. First, they will provide free, accessible storytime sessions for parents and toddlers in Whitley, enabling parents to practise their storybook reading skills in a safe, non-judgemental environment. Second, they will set up a reading group for local parents to encourage reading for pleasure, and thus to further enhance children’s HLE. These joint initiatives will generate conversations about reading with stakeholders to inform our future plans for supporting and encouraging a love of reading in children and their parents. The project will take a sensitive and respectful approach in producing a co-designed programme based both on current evidence of effective strategies for facilitating reading and also the views, tastes and preferences of our primary stakeholders in the Whitley community.