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Helping boys to read: Norwich School students join the Bert Club at Magdalen Gates Primary

PUBLISHED: 07:00 11 February 2016

Norwich School pupils helping Magdalen Gates Primary School boys with their reading. Rohan Kaushal, 16, with Isaac Newrick, 8.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich School pupils helping Magdalen Gates Primary School boys with their reading. Rohan Kaushal, 16, with Isaac Newrick, 8. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

It is a problem that primary schools have faced for years: how do you get boys interested in reading?

Norwich School pupils helping Magdalen Gates Primary School boys with their reading. 
Picture: ANTONY KELLYNorwich School pupils helping Magdalen Gates Primary School boys with their reading. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

For one city primary school, the answer lies in the generation just above their current their charges, in the form of teenage visitors from the Norwich School.

At Magdalen Gates Primary, Wednesday afternoon is the time for Bert Club - which stands for Boys Enjoy Reading Too.

The floor of a snug corner of the library is littered with books, and boys snuggle in chairs, on the carpet or on cushions with a book for company, and a smartly-uniformed teenager offering them support and encouragement as they come across unfamiliar words or phrases.

The last time Ofsted inspectors visited the school, in 2013, they found “teaching of reading is good and is particularly appealing to boys”.

Although the scheme has been going for a number of years, librarian Alison Doughty said it was boosted in September, when, instead of sporadic visits from parents or governors to listen to the youngsters read, the three Norwich School students started their regular weekly visits.

Mrs Doughty, who describes herself as “an honorary member who is not a boy”, said: “It’s about the next generation up, so our boys have a role model to look up to.

“It’s really working well for all of us. We have the consistency of having the same faces here every week. The boys are building up a really good rapport with each other, and getting to know the characters we have here.”

She that, when she crosses the playground in the morning, excited members of the Bert Club come up to her to ask whether they would be reading that afternoon.

For her, there has been a noticeable increase in the confidence of the seven to 11-year-olds.

“The boys who come to the club are the boys who perhaps need a bit more encouragement with their reading, so it’s good for them to have the extra practice,” she said.

For Isaac Newrick, eight, Beast Quest and books about dinosaurs are his reading matter of choice.

He said: “I like reading because it helps us learn stuff. I like Bert Club because it’s fun to let people help you read.”

He added that it made him to want to read even more.

The teenagers from the Norwich School come to Magdalen Gates as part of their school’s community service programme.

Rohan Kaushal, 16, one of the Bert Club trio, said he liked encouraging the youngsters to read because he thinks he should have read more when he was younger.

He also finds he often learns a lot of new information himself from the books the boys read to him.

“I think it helps them”, he said. “If they make a mistake you can correct them, and go over the difficult words they don’t know. They get one-to-one attention.

“At first they were a bit nervous, but now I think they are confident. I think their pace of reading has improved.”

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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