National boost for reading for pleasure

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Arts Council England funding enables Reading Teachers=Reading Pupils to expand to all parts of the UK


Cheltenham Festivals has been awarded a grant of £127,608 from Arts Council England to expand its Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils* programme nationally over the next three years. By 2022 Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils is set to support around 400 teachers and reach nearly 29,000 children in every part of the UK.

The Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils network of free teachers’ reading groups aims to ignite a love of reading in children by giving their teachers the time, space and inspiration to engage (or re-engage) with children’s books. The enthusiasm that is generated amongst this reading community spreads to pupils and the wider school community.

In March, Cheltenham Festivals announced a partnership with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education in London, Just Imagine in Essex, Peters in Birmingham and Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books in Newcastle. The ACE award will enable eight more hubs to cover the entire UK including Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

900 pupils and teachers from 36 Gloucestershire secondary schools who took part in this year’s programme were among the first to hear the news of the funding award as they gathered at Cheltenham’s Everyman Theatre on 3 July. They were there to meet two of the featuring authors Ross MacKenzie (The Nowhere Emporium) and Sue Durrant (Running on Empty) and share their work with them.

Author Ross McKenzie said “[Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils] is very close to my heart because the power of reading aloud is something that is often underestimated, I think. It was a teacher reading aloud to me in my class when I was nine years old who changed my life. It’s the reason I’m here today; it’s the reason I’m a writer; it’s the reason I love books. That’s the power of reading aloud: it can change lives and I am proof of that.”

A Year 5 pupil said: “Before I didn’t really like reading books but now I do because we get to talk about it more.” Another commented: “I never really had a teacher read a story or a book to me before, but when my teacher started to read the Nowhere Emporium it was a different type of book to what I usually read. So I found it quite fascinating and then I read it by myself and I liked it.”

Following the sharing day a teacher tweeted: “RT=RP has changed my classroom, teaching, life!” and another tweeted: “this is practice-changing CPD transforming person after person into readers (teachers and pupils alike)”

Ali Mawle, Education Director at Cheltenham Festivals said: “Research demonstrates that reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success. Thanks to our funders and partners, within three years every teacher in the country will be able to participate in Reading Teachers = Reading Pupils – meaning that potentially every child will have the door opened to reading for pleasure.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: “This is an inspirational project that has been incredibly effective in supporting teachers to share their own love of reading with their pupils and explore some really great contemporary fiction together. We are delighted to support the rollout of this ground-breaking work by Cheltenham Festivals through our National Lottery Project Grants and look forward to seeing even more teachers and pupils becoming passionate advocates for reading for pleasure.”

Reading Teachers=Reading Pupils is supported by the Thirty Percy Foundation, The Summerfield Charitable Trust, The Unwin Charitable Trust. Cheltenham Festivals is grateful for the support of The Notgrove Trust and the Ernest Cook Charitable Trust in setting up RT=RP.