ACTION heroes ranging from the Avengers to Harry Potter are being employed to use their superhero powers to get young people from some of London’s most difficult backgrounds to read in a pioneering scheme being supported by Westminster City Council.
Beachcroft Academy, a Westminster-based Pupil Referral Unit, has been given a £5,000 grant to start a library at the site in Finchley Road - one of the first times a pupil referral unit has ever provided a library.
With advice from Westminster City Council’s library service, the school – home to up to 87 pupils aged five to 16 – is now going to convert part of its building into home for around 1,500 titles. These will range from graphics novels to established writers like JK Rowling and non-fiction titles.
The academy was successful in applying to the council’s #MyWestminster Fund for a grant. Set up last year, the scheme has so far issued grants to nearly 80 local Westminster organisations that can demonstrate they are benefiting local communities.
Cllr Nickie Aiken, Leader of Westminster City Council, was today (Wednesday 15 May) shown around the Academy by head teacher Wasim Butt and met some of the pupils. She was told that children at pupil referral units typically have a reading age at least three years behind their contemporaries.
Cllr Aiken said: “Sadly, some of the children at Beachcroft come from homes where there isn’t a single book on the shelves and there was rarely a bedtime story. This is all about creating a space where children can read books and not feel embarrassed about doing so.
“It’s also of means of getting books into homes where reading has been erratic or non-existent. Using popular characters from Marvel comics or graphics novels is a great way to entice children to pick up a book.
“Pupil Referral Units have an important role in teaching skills like literacy while children are prepared for an eventual return to the mainstream school system. I think what Beachcroft Academy is doing is really innovative in supporting this.”
Wasim Butt, head of school at Beachcroft Academy said: “We’re grateful to Westminster City Council for a grant from the #MyWestminster Fund to kick start what I hope will be a growing initiative.
“Books can be low on the list of priorities for children from challenging backgrounds, but it is so important to cultivate the reading habit and create a space where young people feel comfortable to read.
“It is an old saying in the teaching world that ‘those who read succeed’, and I hope that by picking up a book - whether a marvel comic or a Harry Potter – it will kick start that journey for children who for all sorts of reasons haven’t had time to read or access to books.”
The #MyWestminster Fund has now handed out funding to 77 local organisations over the past two years. To learn more, go to https://www.westminster.gov.uk/mywestminster-fund.