PWA backs drive to improve Lancashire literacy

PWA Planning has thrown its backing behind a charity which is helping close the literacy skills gap in Preston.

Read Easy Preston is a newly formed community-based support group for adults with low literacy who wish to learn how to read.

The group is run by a committee of volunteers from the local area, each bringing with them different skills and life experiences, with the aim of providing free, confidential, one-to-one reading coaching for adults.

It is an affiliated member of the registered charity Read Easy UK, which was formed in 2010 and supports over 40 local groups in England. Each group trains volunteers from the community to be reading coaches and then pairs them with an adult who wishes to improve their reading skills.

The Preston group was established in March of this year to help the 25,000 people throughout Preston, Wyre, South Ribble and Chorley who can barely read or cannot read at all.

PWA’s donation has been used to fund the first books needed to kick-start the charity’s Preston-based learn-to-read programme, which comprises two half-an-hour sessions a week with a reading coach.

The structured, phonics-based reading programme is specially designed for adults and can take up to two or more years to complete.

Stella Walton, director of PWA Planning, said: “Around seven per cent of the Preston, Wyre, South Ribble and Chorley adult community has low literacy, and this has been exacerbated further during the pandemic, so we were happy to extend a hand and support such a worthy cause that will help improve the lives and employment opportunities of so many.”

Rachel Coupe, Team Leader and Publicity Officer at Read Easy Preston, added: “We cannot thank PWA enough for enabling us to begin our much-needed work with this donation. We believe that being able to read is a right, without which everyday tasks like shopping, travelling and using the internet are inaccessible. Our work will have a truly transformative effect on readers as we strive for all adults in the Preston area to have the literacy skills they need to realise their potential.”

With the pandemic driving an acceleration in the transition to a digital age, non-readers have been left increasingly isolated as their low literacy proves a real obstacle to digital access.

It costs approximately £145 a year to coach each reader, and £3,500 annually to run the Read Easy Preston group, with the charity relying on donations from local businesses, community funds and the general public to provide its services.