Chalk Talk: A trip to the palace spells an improvement in reading skills


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The Independent Online

For many children, visiting Buckingham Palace, the natural History Museum, picturesque Greenwich Naval College or Wembley Stadium during the summer holidays would just be a fun day out.

For a group of inner-city schoolchildren, this summer it will be a bit more than that – a chance to improve their reading skills before they start secondary school.

The scheme is the brainchild of Teach First Ambassadors, Nick Ovenden and Jill Krishnan, who felt that the sites visited during their "ReadLondon" initiative – as they have dubbed it – would open up the imaginations of the children and inspire them to read. Visits to each of the sites during the two-week summer-school "catch-up" will be accompanied by paired reading initiatives with sixth-form mentors, who will be accompanying them on their visits.

Nick is hopeful that this summer's pilot scheme will be accompanied by an expansion of the initiative in the months to come. Schools involved in the pilot are London Fields Primary School in Hackney and neighbouring St Paul's Trust School and St Thomas More in Wood Green, who provide the mentors.

The idea stems from a scheme in Harlem, New York, where regular and intensive reading sessions with struggling pupils enabled many "doomed" youngsters to reach or exceed the reading levels of some of their middle-class peers.

"The aim of this project is not only to raise the reading ability of participating pupils but also to have a less tangible effect on their reading careers by giving them an unforgettable reading experience," says a mission statement about the scheme.

It already has the backing of one urban writer, Emanuel Adelekun, but Nick is hoping to attract more famous names to back the project if it takes off after the pilot.

The scheme will also give some pupils who probably don't travel round the sites of London that much the chance to visit some of the capital's best-known historical sites.

For further details of the scheme, contact