Caleb and I snuggled up onto his bed, under his power rangers duvet, and began reading Beast Quest. Both of us quickly fell into the world of dragons, wizards and adventure. It took a while, but eventually, Caleb decided he was happy to read every other page. There were a few big words in there, but we spelt them out together, and I explained the meanings to him. Our mum walked by the door and told us off for reading without her – she didn’t want to miss any of the story.

Of course, this was before my mum and I were obliged to keep reading the Beast Quest books even though the plot of each is essentially the same.

What is your story with reading? Did your parents get you started? Or did you just do it at school? Do you use your reading skills now?

I’m going to guess your answer to the last question is yes, after all, you’re reading this. Those first few years reading are key to what we read now. I’m sure eventually Caleb will move on from the never ending series of Beast Quest books to rambling blog posts, newspapers or work documents. But I hadn’t realised how lucky he is until now.

Because one in three children in the UK don’t own their own book.

And the children who can’t read become parents who can’t read. It’s estimated that one in five parents don’t have enough literacy skills to read with their children.

We don’t need statistics to tell us that low literacy skills have a big effect on your later life, but here are some anyway:

  • 63% of men and 75% of women with low literacy skills have never received a promotion.
  • Men and women with poor literacy are the least likely to be employed at aged 30.
  • 60% of the prison population have problems with literacy and 25% of young offenders are said to have lower reading skills than a seven year old.

Fifteen years ago I was in Caleb’s position; eight years old, snuggled up on my bed with a parent or grandparent, reading Beatrix Potter or later Jacqueline Wilson. Needless to say, an English degree, a book club, and countless books later, I’m still reading. But I wouldn’t be if it weren’t for those early years learning.

That’s why charities like the Springboard for Children are so important. They provide extra support to the kids who are falling behind and struggling with reading. Many circumstances can affect a child’s capacity to learn, so having that extra support is key.

I think of Caleb, under his power rangers duvet, confident that someone will be coming to read with him soon, and confident he’ll be living in the same house, going to the same school, and speaking the same language, for the foreseeable future. A lot of kids don’t have that luxury.

Take Sabir, who moved from Pakistan to London three years ago. Not only was he blind in one eye, his family asylum seekers, and his father dead, but he had to start reception, aged five, not knowing any English.

What would you have done in that situation? What would Caleb have done? Sabir naturally found it difficult to concentrate, acted up and took to pinching other kids.

Two years later, when he was referred to Springboard for Children, his reading age was two years lower than his actual age. With eight months of extra support, his reading age rose from five to seven, and he was just about the standard of literacy he should have been. As his reading improved, so did his behaviour. How amazing is that?

Sadly though, his family were refused asylum and whilst his mum appealed this ruling, he had to leave the school and move to go and stay with other relatives.

Sabir’s story not only shows the challenges many kids are facing when it comes to learning to read, but it also shows that with support, huge amounts of progress can be made.

Supporting Springboard for Children is essentially supporting kids like Sabir, kids like Caleb but less lucky. It’s not a big ask, but following them on Twitter or liking them on Facebook is a great way to share what their up to with people you know.

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