Oxford University Press (OUP) will be extending its Oxfordshire Raise a Reader programme, in partnership with the National Literacy Trust and its Libraries for Primaries campaign, to an additional ten schools across the county in 2024, including in Oxford, Witney and Banbury.
Almost 3,000 children growing up in some of the most disadvantaged areas in Oxfordshire benefitted from the programme in 2023, which saw dedicated libraries set up in ten primary schools. 5,000 books were donated to the schools, along with a range of soft furnishings and book storage. Each school received in-person specialist training to help develop effective whole-school literacy strategies and ongoing support from OUP across the year.
More than 200 children across the ten Oxfordshire schools shared their feedback about the new library spaces, with more than four in ten (44)% stating the changes to their school library make them want to read more, and almost three-quarters who use the library (73%) saying they do so at least weekly.
The announcement comes as Oxford University Press publishes its Oxford Language Report, an annual study of vocabulary development in under-18s in the UK. The research, which heard from over 800 teachers and parents across the UK, found four in ten pupils in the UK have fallen behind in their English vocabulary development to the extent that it is impacting their learning, according to the teachers surveyed.
Overwhelmingly, teachers across the UK highlight the significant consequences of the pandemic, with 95% believing school closures and disruptions during COVID-19 are a contributing factor to a widening vocabulary gap. The findings are published as OUP extends its Raise a Reader initiative in Oxfordshire, which first launched in 2022 and is OUP’s ongoing campaign to support children’s literacy in the wake of the pandemic.
Caroline Derby, Head of Early Literacy and Phonics at Oxford University Press, said: “Our Raise a Reader mission has always been to give children the opportunities to become life-long readers in the wake of the pandemic, and our research shows this is more important now than ever.
“We hope parents and carers enjoy our free Raise a Reader pack, which is filled with handy resources and tips from our research to encourage children on their reading journey.
“We wouldn’t be able to achieve our mission without our brilliant partners and we are delighted to work with the National Literacy Trust on the second year of our Raise a Reader Oxfordshire programme and look forward to bringing libraries to even more schools across the county this year.”
Sinéad Naidoo, National Literacy Trust, Senior Programme Manager, Raise a Reader, said: “This report is further evidence of the need for every primary school to have a library. School libraries are essential in helping to fuel a child’s imagination, build a rich vocabulary, and give them the literacy skills they need to succeed in life.
“When families across the country may be struggling to afford books at home, school libraries can be a child’s only access to books and the joy of reading. We are delighted to be working with Oxford University Press for a second year to get ten wonderful new reading spaces into primary schools in Oxfordshire.”
To support parents with developing vocabulary at home, OUP has also updated its free Raise a Reader pack for parents, filled with tips and activities based on the latest research to support vocabulary development and reading at home.
The packs include advice from teachers, as well as three key approaches to building vocabulary: conversation, reading, and activities.
Other key findings in the Oxford Language Report included:
- Over half of teachers report that there has been an increase in the number of children who have fallen behind in their vocabulary knowledge compared to previous years.
- Teachers are keen for schools to work with parents to tackle the issue, with 85% believing schools could do more to encourage parents to be involved in their child’s vocabulary development.
- Over two-thirds of parents surveyed are eager to engage with schools, with 68% of parents welcoming more guidance from schools when it comes to developing their child’s vocabulary.
- Teachers almost all agree that parents should be actively involved in their child’s vocabulary development – but only 44% of schools encourage parents to do so.
- All parents surveyed consider it ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for their child to have a broad English vocabulary.
- 52% of schools do not have a school-wide vocabulary policy or strategy in place.
- Among parents who look for help and guidance, only 36% consult their child’s teacher for guidance.
Avnee Morjaria, Policy Director, Education at Oxford University Press, said: “We can see first-hand the impact the pandemic had on young people’s education, and this is one of the key reasons why we launched our Raise a Reader campaign last year. Falling behind on vocabulary development is a significant issue for many children, and one which can impact their learning at school and later life chances.
“The research captures the views of teachers and parents across the UK and based on their feedback, aims to give practical advice on the different ways in which we can support children’s literacy and language development. We are looking forward to working with the National Literacy Trust to support more schools next year and ensure that all children have the tools and opportunities to become life-long readers”.