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Pompey Pirates make reading and writing fun for disadvantaged young people

A new project to help improve the reading, writing and confidence of children from disadvantaged backgrounds is being launched in Portsmouth.

The Literacy Hubs is an education charity, working in partnership with The University of Portsmouth and Portsmouth City Council, to create a range of literacy hubs across the City and surrounding areas.

Nearly a quarter of the children in Portsmouth live in poverty. Children from low-income backgrounds are twice as likely to fall below expected levels of reading and writing by age 11 than their peers from wealthier homes.

The first hub, The Pompey Pirates, is launching in September in the heart of the Charles Dickens Ward, where 44 per cent of children live in poverty. The hub is a learning programme for children aged nine to 13, who have been referred by their school as they will benefit most from the support. They will attend sessions once a week, after school, for a year.

Becca Dean, Founder and CEO of The Literacy Hubs, said: “Due to school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our work has become even more crucial as the literacy gap between those less advantaged children and their peers is likely to become even wider. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds are the ones who benefit the most from being in a school environment, where their needs can be supported. They are the children who, because of the school closures, are facing the most challenging learning circumstances because of a comparative lack of books, learning resources and IT.”

The Pompey Pirates is devised and led by education professionals, with the help of volunteers from the community. Young people will work on reading and creative writing projects in small groups or one-to-one with support from adult volunteers. The ‘Young Pirates’ will publish their writing in the form of storybooks, web apps, studio recordings, which will be broadcast on Express FM, and films that are premiered in the Number 6 cinema.

Professor Sherria Hoskins, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Science and Health and Civic Lead at the University of Portsmouth, said: “We are extremely excited to support the  hubs because they offer a unique, creative and adventurous learning environment that inspire young people to improve their literacy skills and fall in love with reading and writing.

“Timely support given to a child struggling in literacy can help them to develop a lifelong passion for and confidence in reading and writing and access all other curriculum areas, giving them an equal chance to achieve their potential.”

Mike Stoneman, Deputy Director for Education at Portsmouth City Council, added: “As a charity that exists to change the lives of  young people through literacy, there's never been a more important time for the work of The Literacy Hubs. Their first hub, The Pompey Pirates, will support schools in closing the literacy gap.”

The Pompey Pirates are looking for people to join its one-to-one buddy system, where one Young Pirate is partnered with a volunteer ‘Crewmate’. Those who want to take part need to commit to at least one session a month and can sign up on the charity’s website, where donations can also be made. 

Future Literacy Hubs are due to be launched in Gosport, Fratton, Leigh Park and Paulsgrove.

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