Wendy Pearson from Edinburgh Libraries tells us about her very special Dyslexia Chatterbooks children's reading group, which is helping children with dyslexia to enjoy reading, and to love coming to the library.
Supporting Dyslexia Awareness Week
Since 2010 we have delivered an extensive programme of events during Dyslexia Awareness Week for both adults and children, in partnership with Dyslexia Scotland. Dyslexia Chatterbooks grew from this.
Setting up a Chatterbooks children's reading group for children with dyslexia
We established a group similar to other Chatterbooks children's reading groups, focusing on fun and informality, with the aim of encouraging enjoyment of words, stories, books, reading and of course the library itself. But unlike other groups, this one offered a safe environment for children with dyslexia, without peer pressure from those who can read fluently.
The practicalities of running a reading group for children with dyslexia
We also wanted to have high adult to child ratios (1:2) increasing opportunities for additional support, engagement, paired reading and confidence building. So we recruited six volunteers to help, using Edinburgh Libraries volunteer policy. Our volunteers have been fantastic and all have personal experience of dyslexia, either themselves, with close relatives or through work. The project would not be sustainable without their commitment and support. Children, aged eight to ten, were initially recruited from primary schools across the city through contacts with learning support staff. Recent recruits have been in response to promotion on Dyslexia Scotland and Edinburgh Libraries' websites. There is always a short waiting list and we are planning to develop other groups in neighbourhood libraries.
The group meets for an hour and half once a month. We begin each session with five minutes of 'quiet and stillness' when we sit in a circle, focus on 'mock' tea lights and soft music (one of our volunteers plays classical guitar beautifully). The purpose of this is to move from school and any tension or chaos of the day to something different, and to manage any potentially challenging behaviour - the particular nature of the group means that some children have to deal not only with dyslexia, but also ADHD, Aspergers, etc. Each session includes games, stories, sometimes drama and mad dress-up sessions, refreshments and at least half an hour crucial reading and choosing time in small groups of one adult to two children.
Getting special guests in
Over the year we have had some fantastic 'special guests' including local storytellers, poet in residence, authors from specialist dyslexia- friendly publishers, Barrington Stoke. As far as stock goes, we purchased additional copies of some Barrington Stoke books and always have displays with CDs as well. But the groups are varied in their abilities and tastes. The crucial thing is to work out what each child enjoys and go with that.
Evaluating how we are doing
Child evaluation is easy - they come back again and again and we get reports from parents such as, "I can't miss my book group" or "Chatterbooks is the best" suggest we are offering something good! From the parents however, we have really strong evidence that the group is beneficial. For example, one child has never written stories but preceded to tell parents all about guest author Viv French, and wrote a fantastic tale. We have children who arrive at first session, extremely shy, quiet, and within a couple of sessions they are very much part of the group.
More formal evaluation shows 100% parents agreeing that their child is more confident with reading, 90% agreed their child had a more positive attitude to reading and 90% agreed their child is happier trying to read different books. It's so rewarding for all of us to see children blossoming. Some of the group definitely improve their reading abilities and broaden their reading habits. Others gain in confidence and self-respect. What more can you ask for?
Celebrating our year of success
This summer we held an end of year celebration before the school holidays and invited parents and siblings to attend. A local story teller entertained along with group members themselves and our Convenor of Culture and Leisure presented awards of attendance and yearbooks featuring photos, quotes from authors, individual stories and artwork. Fabulous end to a great year!
Read Wendy's article on the Edinburgh libraries blog about some of the other work she was involved with during Dyslexia Awareness Week.
Read more about our Chatterbooks children's reading groups, how they can benefit children of all abilities and how you can set one up.
To find out more about running a Chatterbooks children's reading group specifically for children with dyslexia contact email@example.com