Child literacy campaign takes to the high street

4:19pm - 18 November 2021

A literacy campaign aimed at improving the language skills of under five-year-olds has taken to the high street.

The Poetry Basket project is an exciting initiative launched late last year by the early years team at North Somerset Council in partnership with the scheme’s creators, MakeBelieveArts.

The project aims to keep children focused on their language, learning and development in a fun, but effective way.

While presented as a fun activity, the Poetry Basket has been introduced on the back of research that shows that literacy levels are falling in pre school children. In a joint survey by the National Literacy Trust and the National Association of Head Teachers, almost three-quarters of heads polled felt young children’s speaking and listening skills had deteriorated in the past five years. 

Under The Poetry Basket scheme, children in participating early years settings (childminders, pre-schools, and reception classes) learn a number of new poems across the year. A fresh poem from the list is made available each month for children, their carers and family members to spot, learn and say together out in the community.   The poems were initially shared with nurseries and children’s centres, where they were well received. The next stage is to get the project out into the community and make the poems visible to more people.

The Sovereign Centre in Weston is leading the way by displaying poems around the building and children from Little Angels nursery visited last week.

The early years team are now particularly keen to see businesses and households put the poems in their windows – a suggestion that has already been taken up by some cafes and restaurants around Weston with Clevedon and Nailsea set to follow.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons, North Somerset Council's executive member with responsibility for children and young people said: "It’s never too early to introduce children to poetry. With the help of a project like this, our children can begin to feel the magic of words and poems, and go on to enjoy and even write their own poetry as they grow up.

By displaying the poems in the local community, families can help little ones develop their language skills and connect with them through rhymes and repetition while out for a walk or bike ride."