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One-in-10 Irish children can't read properly when leaving school

One organisation, SUAS, is helping to fight that.

Image: Boy with book via Shutterstock

781 MILLION ADULTS and 126 million young people around the world lack basic literacy skills, meaning reading and spelling is difficult for them.

Here in Ireland, we tend to take the ability to read and write for granted, but one in 10 children leave Irish primary schools with serious literacy difficulties.

In disadvantaged schools, this figure rises to one in three. This Monday, 8 September, is International Literacy Day, and Suas Educational Development is hoping this will put the issue of literacy on the national agenda.

Educational disadvantage

Suas works to eradicate educational disadvantage, both here in Ireland and abroad. Around Ireland in 2013, Suas facilitated 46 literacy programmes, benefiting 650 young people.

Suas targets people who face the greatest challenges in reading and spelling, working with those who score below the 15th percentile in Ireland. It says that 79% of the students participating in the programmes have improved their literacy score.

Helina O’Donoghue is the project officer for Suas’ Literary Support Programme. Since 2011, Suas has gone from one or two partner schools to 38 partner schools.

“The demand and need is definitely there,” she said.

O’Donoghue said that sometimes literacy issues can go unnoticed.

Sometimes as the curriculum gets harder and as the child progresses, they really can miss that mark and can fall through a gap, and might not be able to keep up with the level of literacy as it increases.

This gap tends to be during the ages of eight to 14, during the transition from primary to secondary school.

“It can really come through behaviourally. Kids can act out, or be disruptive or not focused in school. It’s not their behaviour, it’s that they’re struggling with academics.”

She said there are many reasons why this can happen, such as a lack of a culture around literacy in the home.

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Suas works with schools to help boost literacy rates, and every Deis school would have a literacy plan, said O’Donoghue.

She said it was “astonishing” to hear recent statistics that showed that in 2011, one in nine children left primary school without sufficient literacy, while this increased to one in three children in disadvantaged areas.

Suas’s two interventions include paired reading, and for children with a lower rate of literacy, the AccelRead AccelWrite programmes, which are computer based.

Definitely education starts in the home. It comes on in leaps and bounds when parents are encouraging.

O’Donoghue praised the Department of Education for its Time to Read programme that involves libraries.

But she said there are schools that are missing out when it comes to literacy, often due to resources and teacher time.

“I definitely believe in the power of community and the power of volunteering,” said O’Donoghue. “International Literacy Day is to recognise the importance of literacy – whether we realise it or not, we are all very lucky to have it.”

Looking for volunteers

Suas’ Literacy Support Programmes are carried out by over 800 volunteers, and more volunteers are needed for the AcceleRead AcceleWrite programmes in Dublin, Waterford, Cork and Galway.

For more information, visit the Suas website.

Read: Literacy to be targeted with the ‘priority it deserves’ at local level>

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