Literacy is a fundamental human right. Each and every day we all enjoy the many benefits of literacy. From the moment we wake up and look at the clock, check the news on our phones, follow the signs at the station to catch our train, answer an email at work, pick up a text from a friend, book tickets to the cinema, shop at the supermarket, or read a blog like this one – to the million other little things we take for granted – literacy is the cornerstone of life.
“The future starts with the alphabet”.
Former UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on children everywhere and particularly so for those children living in areas of disadvantage. We know that the attainment gap between pupils from lower and higher income backgrounds has significantly increased but it has also been predicted that school closures during the pandemic could actually reverse the progress made to close this gap over the last decade. (EEF, 2020)
When schools were closed and learning became remote – that gap further widened. Pupils without access to adequate technology at home were further penalised by not being able to join in lessons. This added to the attainment gap and further impacted on individual confidence to learn.
This year’s International Literacy Day focuses not just on the impact that the pandemic has had on young people’s learning, but it aims to shine a light on how we recover from that. We believe that organisations like Doorstep Library are key to the recovery effort and ensuring that every child has access to the fundamental human right of literacy.
UNESCO: Beyond its intrinsic importance as part of the right to education, literacy empowers individuals and improves their lives by expanding their capabilities to choose a kind of life they can value. It is also a driver for sustainable development. Literacy is an integral part of education and lifelong learning premised on humanism as defined by the Sustainable Development Goal 4. Literacy, therefore, is central to a human-centred recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.
Doorstep Library works with families in the home. We take books and resources directly to the children and we continued to do that throughout lockdown. At the beginning of the pandemic we sent books in the post to each and every child we work with, ensuring that every child had access to books in the home. Overall we gifted 1500 books to the children we read with during lockdown.
Throughout the last year our staff were out whenever possible, visiting our families on their doorsteps. They took trolleys filled with books out and offered every child a weekly book lending service – safely swapping books with children at the door. This ensured that children who were stuck inside were still able to enjoy the benefits and escapism of reading for pleasure.
In our recent Impact Report 2020 we asked our families if they felt they would benefit from a virtual reading service, with 79% of responses saying ‘yes’ to the idea of either group or individual online sessions with their children.
We listened to the families we work with and have subsequently launched our brand new ‘Online Reading Corner’ – a new virtual reading service where volunteers can share books and stories with families online. This has been incredibly successful during lockdown and has enabled us to open our service up to reach even more children. We are now running this service alongside our traditional Home Reading service (currently on the doorstep rather than directly inside the home) and we believe it offers even more opportunities to enjoy the benefits of reading for pleasure.
Bridging the digital divide
Of course we are aware that not all families have access to the technology required to take part in an online offer, and to help us deliver the best service to those who most need it we have teamed up with the amazing organisation – Ready Tech Go. These wonderful people provide technological equipment and support to anyone without access. They have now supplied a number of PCs to families we work with, enabling them to join in our online reading sessions and to do more remote learning. We were delighted that one family who needed additional support during lockdown for their autistic son received a PC from Ready Tech Go, enabling him to do the things he loves the most on his computer.
As our team of reading volunteers head back out into communities this week, sharing books and stories on the doorstep, we believe that Doorstep Library is well positioned to support those children who need us, in recovering from the effects of the pandemic and beyond. We hope that our services will help shape the future of literacy teaching and learning and ensure that the children we work with have access to books and reading, ensuring literacy is a fundamental human right.
Join our team of Home Reading Volunteers
You can find out more about joining our amazing team of Home Reading Volunteers here. For more information on how to volunteer with Doorstep Library please book one of our online Information Sessions here.