Sarah Kingham is amongst a number of women in education, who is determined to make an impact and change children’s lives for the better. Starting her career as a teacher, she wanted to make even more of a difference. So she turned to becoming an Early Years Adviser in primary schools. This need to reach out and help children has now extended to her starting her own business, to make a difference on her terms.
Sarah created Readit2 a reading programme with one strong clear aim: to enable all children to enter school as reading equals, with the pre-literacy skills that enable them to learn successfully. Sarah is determined to inspire as many children as possible with the will to learn through the love of reading. We were lucky enough to have a chat with Sarah to find out more about Readit2 and running her own business.
Could you tell us a little bit more about Readit2?
In schools today, education leaders are faced with increasing challenges to ensure that all children can learn to read. That’s why we came up with Readit2, as receiving children who have been a part of a literacy-orientated programme such as Readit2 in pre-school enables their smooth transition into school. By increasing their interest and understanding of books, formally learning to read becomes a much simpler task for both the child and the teacher.
Readit2 trains adults to inspire children to love to read and learn. It is a one-to-one reading programme designed for 2-5 year olds, designed particularly for children considered to be disadvantaged (although it has substantial impact on all children). Its main aim is for children to develop an emotional bond with reading and learning and the adult they do their reading with.
Following the Readit2 training, practitioners feel inspired to think more about how and what they do with children, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds. Schools that implement this programme have noticed a narrowing of the gap between lower and higher-attaining children and I’d love for that to become more widespread across the UK.
Why do you feel reading is important?
I believe that being literate (and developing an emotional bond) is the key to lifelong happiness. Statistics from EIF and Save The Children (2015) state that 1 in 4 children enter school without the necessary language and communication skills, 1 in 2 of which are considered to be disadvantaged. It has also been reported that in recent years many reception children in the UK struggle to speak properly, have no idea what a book is, and are ill prepared to learn.
This can all be rectified with a one-to-one daily reading experience with a trusted adult before they start school. This experience develops trust with an adult, inspires children to learn, encourages conversation, gives children unprecedented knowledge, and vastly improves their vocabulary. It also helps them to develop sustained concentration which supports future learning.
How is Readit2 different to other reading programmes?
At Readit2’s core is a unique emphasis on the development of an emotional attachment with reading and learning – and a bond with a trusted adult. In a daily one-to-one reading experience with a trained adult who they see every day, this emotional bond is formed. The programme can take place in a variety of different environments such as daycare, pre-school, nurseries, childminders and schools.
Why is the emotional connection between reading and children important?
This emotional bond is imperative for all children to grow into successful and healthy adults. It has been reported (WAVE trust) that 40% of children have insecure or disorganised attachment which is the result of not having their needs met in the first two years of life. It’s often not deliberate, but circumstantial – for example, children are at increased risk when their mothers suffer post-natal depression.
As our digital world transforms around us, more children find solace in digital technology and this is having an immeasurable effect on family life. Readit2 aims to give children an emotional bond with one adult who spends 10 minutes daily with them. The book is the ultimate vehicle for this emotional bond – it is through a story read repetitively that quality conversations are created.
What drove to create Readit2 rather than working as a teacher?
I have spent the last 16 years visiting schools and pre-schools as an Early Years Adviser, observing first hand the changes in children and education. I have witnessed that often, teachers are no longer offered the extensive levels of training I received as an undergraduate. It is clear that technology is changing family life and the fact that more children have both parents at work is also making a huge difference.
I was curious why my own children had successfully learnt to read, so I studied what theorists had proven and explored my ideas in a nursery school with an attached pre-school. The results astounded me. My test of the programme showed that pre-school children learn to love books and stories with the support of a daily high quality reading experience with an adult. All the children on the programme, were ready to learn to read when they started school; some verbalising they want stories over sweets!
How did you approach opening your own business?
I reduced my hours as an Early Years Adviser, started sharing my ideas with like minded local headteachers and started to build a website. I trialled Readit2 in schools I had worked in which were very supportive of me, across Hertfordshire, in Islington and further afield in Lincolnshire. We made a short film made and carried on promoting the programme online.
Has there been any significant challenges or barriers when implementing Readit2 in schools?
The biggest barrier Readit2 faces is funding. Schools have had their budgets cut substantially and there are challenges in recruiting them to the programme as they prioritise spending money elsewhere.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of Readit2 so far?
The most rewarding aspects of Readit2 so far is definitely visiting the settings it has been implemented in and seeing how the programme has developed. Observing children considered at disadvantage who are now reading and looking forward to their daily one-to-one activity is rewarding too. I particularly love it when children run up to me to share their favourite book. And when parents tell me of their children’s love of books and desire for them to read stories with them!
Have you got any advice for other women wanting to open their own business?
Stick with your dream! It isn’t easy and you get lots of knock backs. However, I believe the more rejections you get the more likely you will succeed – trust your instincts.
What does the future hold for Readit2?
I want to spread the aims of Readit2 throughout the world – I strongly believe that literacy changes lives, I want everyone to know about that and the importance of emotional attachment in early years.
Has there been a difference in work-life balance since beginning Readit2?
I work hard, but because I drive myself, it doesn’t feel like work. I did used to beat myself up about not getting what I considered to be a sufficient amount of work done, but I now know that is wasted energy. In any case I can now work when it suits me.
On a lighter note, what is your favourite nail varnish colour?
A big thanks to Sarah for her time with us! If you liked this article, you’ll probably love our Ladies Who Launch segment on our blog – we interview female entrepreneurs on all things business, family and life.