Parents reading with their children is at an all time low, and this is particularly the case among low and middle socioeconomic status groups (Shahaeiana et al (2018)). There’s strong evidence indicating that shared reading is associated with children’s academic achievement, and so this lack of parental reading among the poorest in the city feeds into the inequality problems in Bristol.
Tackling inequalities in Bristol is a major focus of the Bristol Forum – a collective of the city’s researchers and organisations to address the challenges the city faces. And so the Forum’s meeting on Friday 29th March was the perfect setting for Bristol Reading City to present their solution to inequalities in the city.
Open the door for reading
UWE Bristol’s Jane Carter is part of Bristol Reading City’s steering group, an initiative aiming to encourage parents and caregivers to read with their children. And in Carter’s joint talk with Curiosity Connections’ Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers, she outlined the plans she has to boost shared reading in the city. This includes:
- establishing “Cloakroom Libraries” within Children’s Centres in particularly low-economic areas of the city. With high quality books to loan out and Community Reading Ambassadors to do some reading!
- launching a campaign to inform parents of the importance of reading with their children from the earliest years.
Carter read through the children’s book – Rosie Revere Engineer – at intervals throughout her presentation, drawing the audience along the struggles and triumphs of the young inventors story.
Tackling the skills gap
Fogg-Rogers announced that Curiosity Connections – the primary STEM education hub, will be supporting Bristol Reading City, and pointed out how stories like that of young Rosie were important in solving another of the city of Bristol’s challenges – the skills gap.
Only 11% of engineers are women, and with Bristol’s engineering companies lacking skilled engineers, encouraging women from a young age into the STEM disciplines will be key to fillinig that gap.
“It’s important for children to see themselves in the books their reading,” said Fogg-Rogers quoting Marian Wright Edelman – “You can’t be what you can’t see“.
She hopes that providing books with female characters involved in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), at the proposed cloakroom libraries, will encourage Bristol girls to view STEM subjects as potential career options.
Connecting to inspire curiosity
“We have a solution, and it’s actually quite easy,” announced Carter at the beginning of the session, responding to the list of problems the Bristol Forum had put forward.
And using reading to connect children in low socioeconomic suburbs of Bristol to higher academic possibilities, while simultaneously addressing the imbalance of women in STEM, does appear a seemingly straightforward solution.
However, as Rosie Revere found it wasn’t always easy to build something new, in the same way Bristol Reading City needs support to really get off the ground.
And that is where you come in! Would you like to become a reading ambassador for Bristol Reading City? If so please do get in touch with Jane Carter.
And keep tuned, we’re planning to release a reading list of children’s books with leading female scientists, and will let you know more about how Curiosity Connections is going to support Bristol Reading City very soon….