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Podcast: Peterborough Reads is revealing the fun of reading to children

In the latest episode of our Peterborough Natters Podcast we spoke to Sally Atkinson and Lisa Clisset, of Peterborough Reads, about the work they're doing to get children - and families - reading.
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Peterborough Reads and Natters: We spoke to Sally Atkinson (top left) and Lisa Clissett (bottom middle) about the local literacy campaign

Peterborough Reads was launched in 2014, when the National Literacy Trust came to the city to help improve local literacy rates. Sally Atkinson, National Literacy Trust hub manager for Peterborough, and Lisa Clissett, events and volunteering officer, are two of the team members who have worked alongside Peterborough City Council, Vivacity, Peterborough City College - as well as other schools and businesses - to inspire children to develop a lifelong love of reading.

In 2017, 63% of pupils in Peterborough reached their expected reading level - compared to 72% nationally. Sally says that this gap is being narrowed, thanks to the work of Peterborough Reads and its partners. "There's lots and lots of work going on in the Schools Improvements Team. We have had a really concerted effort, within the city council and with all the partners.

"We are making progress; we're narrowing the gap. We'll get there."

Lisa added: "Sometimes I think we get hung up on what we're not good at, when we need to embrace what we are good at. We have got a really enriched community in Peterborough and that's what we need to be shouting about and embracing."

The campaign does work to get children ready to start school and has just launched the Hungry Little Minds initiative via the Peterborough Reads Facebook page to encourage storytelling and day-to-day activities that all families can do together.

But the best incentive to get children to read, Sally says, is to get them a book. For some families in deprived parts of the city, buying books just isn't an option, and some families find it difficult to read with their children due to language barriers or a struggle with adult literacy. Peterborough Reads uses its sessions to provide books, but also to show parents how to use those books, especially if reading doesn't come as naturally.

"At the launch of the hub, initially, we took a Stagecoach bus around the city," Sally recalls. "And I remember one child coming onto the bus, he'd been involved in a storytelling session, and it was so exciting: he came out and said 'I've got my very own book to take home!'. That sort of thing is... yeah. Really nice to be involved with."

During the 30 minute conversation, we discussed past initiatives that really worked - such as books on Stagecoach buses through the city, and working with Vivacity on big events like the Nick Sharratt museum exhibition - as well as how the team got on during lockdown and how the campaign plans to move forward.

Peterborough Reads is always looking for people who have good ideas about how to further the campaign - the team has resources to help people implement these ideas themselves. Lisa urged: "We're always looking for digital champions who are prepared to share our message with their friends and family and across their local community, because we want it to be really community based." Anyone interested is asked to get in touch with the campaign on Facebook.