Róisin Ingle: Suas Literacy Support Programme

Roisin Ingle reading with Adam Duffy, 4th class student at St. Josephs Co-Ed School East Wall, volunteering with Suas Literacy Programme as part of National Giving Week. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

Roisin Ingle reading with Adam Duffy, 4th class student at St. Josephs Co-Ed School East Wall, volunteering with Suas Literacy Programme as part of National Giving Week. Photograph: Alan Betson / THE IRISH TIMES

 

Even though I’ve had my training with Adelaide Nic Chárthaigh of the Suas Literacy Support Programme ,I’m nervous when I walk into St Joseph’s co-ed national school in East Wall, Dublin for my first “paired reading”. There is a lot to remember but one thing stands out for me from the training. “You are not there to change their world,” Nic Chárthaigh had said. “You are there to support, to praise and to encourage them in the habit and practice and love of reading.”

Suas, a charity set up over 10 years ago to address literacy issues among young people, works with 5,000 children a year in Ireland, India and Kenya. They partner with corporate, community groups and third-level students to deliver quality education programmes in schools. In the room with me at St Joseph’s today are staff members from A&L Goodbody solicitors, who volunteer regularly at the school as part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility programme.

The nerves melt away when I meet my first student Adam, a chatty nearly-10-year-old with a cheeky grin. He tells me he lives in flats near the school and that he reads comics rather than books at home and that if his photo gets into the paper his Mam is going to cut it out and stick it on the wall. And then it’s time to start reading. Sensing he’s in the presence of a novice, Adam takes charge. He tells me all about his current book (Weird Happenings by Kaye Umanksy), instructs me to read the first page with him but then says I’ve to let him off to read on his own.

He’s soon flying. Adam clearly loves reading, his voice full of drama, he giggles over the funny bits, stopping every now and then to fill me in on a character quirk or plot development. “See him? He’s a nerd, he absolutely loves homework,” he marvels, pointing at lanky Oliver Weird, from the Weird Family.

My next student Josh (9), is another brilliant reader. He stumbles over only one word in his dragon book and I manage to remember what I learnt in training, to pause instead of rushing in to help. “Owlish!” Josh says triumphantly after about five seconds. Later we chat about the Friday clubs run by the school. Josh used to be in the Glee club but now he plays chess instead. I’m intrigued when he tells me about the Whatever club. “What do you do in that?” I ask him. “Whatever you want,” he says and we both laugh.

The sessions are only 20 minutes each but it feels like quality time. When it’s over I look around the room and notice that everyone, volunteers and pupils, are all smiles. “Will you be coming back again?” Adam asked me earlier, flashing that grin. You know what, Adam? I think I will.
See suas.ie

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