Words Count: celebrating five years of firefighters championing reading with local schools

Schools, Libraries and Learning
14:51, Wednesday, 6th April 2022

An innovative literacy project to improve children’s reading and increase literacy levels has recently celebrated its five-year anniversary.

The project is a partnership between North Lincolnshire Council’s Words Count team, firefighters from Humberside Fire and Rescue Service and local schools.

The project began in January 2017 after firefighters from Scunthorpe Fire Station were trained to become reading champions in schools by the Words Count team, which aims to increase literacy levels for all communities in North Lincolnshire.

Since then, firefighters from Immingham and Goole have been trained to take part in the scheme.

In the past five years, the firefighters have supported children at 15 schools across North Lincolnshire to help improve literacy levels. Throughout the pandemic, sessions moved online to ensure the support was still provided.

The project aims to support pupil’s attainment in reading, reading comprehension development, support children’s communication, confidence and self-esteem, develop aspirations and to experience positive role models within the community

It is hoped that reluctant readers become engaged in books and words and start to enjoy reading for pleasure from listening to inspirational role models. At the end of each session, the children and firefighters play games that support reading, maths and building relationships.

In addition to encouraging reading, the firefighters also take the opportunity to discuss their role in the community and promote important safety messages which teachers then share with families. The children themselves describe the sessions as fun and interesting:

  • Alfie said: “I am getting better at reading with the firefighter, and I am not as shy as I used to be.”
  • Livie said: “Since reading with the firefighter I am not as embarrassed to read in front of people like I used to be. I have a better chance of going to the good choices reward now I read more.”
  • Logan said: “I read good books with the firefighter. I am lucky as not many people get to read with the fireman. My reading is getting better, and I now read every day.”

Vicky, a teacher from Enderby Road Infants, said: “I think for our young children having somebody important that they look up to coming into school and saying you are important, the self-worth it gave them was amazing. It was certainly something they enjoyed every week and gave them something to look forward to, and for them to think that person is coming in just for them and they are going to read with them and have a lovely time. It helped develop not only their reading confidence but confidence in themselves, and their own self-worth.”

Cllr Julie Reed, cabinet member for children and families, said: “Congratulations to everyone involved in this wonderful project – five years is a huge achievement. Throughout this time, we have seen significant improvements in children’s literacy levels and enthusiasm for reading.

“We’re very grateful to the firefighters from Humberside Fire and Rescue Service for giving up their time to support this project. They are inspirational role models for children who might not otherwise readily engage in reading and literacy.”