One Million Minutes marks International Literacy Day

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UK education charity Achievement for All (AfA) has released its results of a year long campaign to encourage primary school children to read, on the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day, Thursday 8 September 2016

The campaign, called One Million Minutes, aimed to get children reading following research that showed a quarter of all UK children leave primary education without reading well.

Held in 10 locations across the country, 33,623 children took part in the competition reading for a staggering 3,951,625 minutes.

The competition challenged primary schools to read for as many minutes as they could in one week. The class which managed to clock up the most minutes won the challenge and were presented with a brand new reading corner and books worth over £1,000, courtesy of Peters Books & Furniture.

1,119 classes took part from schools in Somerset, Berkshire, Nottinghamshire, Wiltshire, Lancashire, West Midlands, Yorkshire, Northamptonshire, Devon and Cornwall. Lancashire was the only region to smash the One Million Minutes target reading for a spectacular 1,309,327 minutes.

Children’s authors have backed the challenge along the way, including Nottingham-based author Ian C Douglas. He said:

If there’s one gift that will stay with a child for life, it’s the gift of literacy. And One Million Minutes is an excellent way to give that gift. I can’t think of a better way of supporting children and teachers in the classroom when it comes to reading skills.

A Unicef report published earlier this year revealed that the UK was ranked 25th out of 37 countries for reading. In England, struggling to read is more closely linked to low pay and the risk of being unemployed than any other developed country.

CEO and founder of Achievement for All, Professor Sonia Blandford said:

The statistics are shocking, we know the impact reading has on a child’s education — research shows that reading for just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference. Being able to read is at the very crux of everyday life. Our One Million Minutes challenge has been a really powerful way for teachers and parents to motivate children to read.

We’ve had amazing feedback from teachers who say the challenge has inspired even the most reluctant of readers to pick up a book and really enjoy reading. One mother was delighted because her son had never read a book in his life, but since this challenge, he hasn’t put a book down. And this is what the challenge is all about. We want to instil a lifelong passion for reading. It has been fabulous to see so many children sign up and engage with the challenge. We will soon be launching a national challenge, so the whole country can get involved.

Elaine Allen, Headteacher of St John Vianney’s Primary in Blackpool, said:

The One Million Minutes Reading Challenge has been instrumental in putting reading firmly back into the spotlight, both at school and at home. Everyone in school and at home, have been involved in the challenge. The children have read with their families, their teachers, their peers and with children in different year groups. Parents have been welcomed into school to read alongside their children. Every minute of reading has been recorded. And this has sent a clear message to everyone involved. Reading is important! It’s something everyone does and it’s something everyone can do.

But it’s sent out another message too. Reading is fun! The competitive element of the challenge has put reading on a par with sport, games and all those activities which children enjoy doing not only for the sheer buzz of taking part but also because it encourages you to do your best. Winning this challenge has been the icing on the cake. We are going to build upon the initiatives we have implemented over the last few weeks to ensure reading is given the attention it deserves in ensuring our children achieve their very best both in and out of school.

Liyah Aulakh, a pupil at St John Vianney’s Primary said:

I LOVE reading and this challenge has motivated me to read EVEN more!

Vicky Simmons, teacher at Bentley New Village Primary in Doncaster, said:

This competition has been amazing, I couldn’t stop the children reading. Every time we stopped a task the books were opened. Children took their books to break and lunch. Parents told us they thought their children would sleep with their books! The children were obsessive about counting every minute.

Nikola, Year 4 at Bentley New Village Primary, added:

I read for 7 hours over the weekend and completed a very large book it has been brilliant I loved it.

Achievement for All is one of a coalition of charities leading the Read On. Get On. campaign to get every child reading well by the age of 11 by 2025.

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Special World, from Inclusive Technology, is a free website linking 125,000 special education teachers, speech therapists and occupational therapists in 150 countries. Special World readers and contributors work with children who have additional needs or special educational needs including those with severe, profound and multiple learning difficulties and disabilities.

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