Foundation funds Reading Garden Room at St Anthony’s

In the Garden Reading Room – (Left to right) Wayne Hodgson, Deborah Salsbury, Julie Wassmer, Headteacher Robert Page with pupils Crystal and Connor

St Anthony’s School (A member of Kent Special Educational Needs Trust) in Cliftonville, nurtures children with a range of barriers to learning, principally; social, emotional and mental health challenges and Autistic Spectrum Disorder. The school recently carried out reading assessments on all pupils at the school and found that two thirds of the pupils have a delay of more than two years, when comparing their chronological age to their reading age. This is mainly due to a lack of engagement in their education and/or specific learning difficulties. Many of the pupils, understandably, have a very negative view of reading when they arrive.

St Anthony’s were keen to improve the children’s reading skills and so secured funding from the Red Eagle Foundation to create a bespoke Indoor Reading Garden – a place where children are encouraged and feel comfortable to develop their reading skills. Over 100 pupils, age 6-16 will now benefit from this space. Many pupils receive one to one, weekly teaching by Reading Recovery trained teacher, Deborah Salsbury- AKA ‘The Reading Doctor’.

Wayne Hodgson and Julie Wassmer opening the Garden Reading Room with Deborah Salsbury – Reading Intervention Teacher at St Anthony’s School

Deborah said; “We will close the gap between pupil’s chronological age and reading age, which in turn will give them better opportunities and increase their employability. Pupils at the school will be able to develop a more positive attitude towards reading through specialist intervention and by choosing to ‘hang out’ in ‘The Reading Garden’ -a place to be calm and relax with a book. We didn’t want it to look like a traditional library. Since the conception of the idea, I have been on a quest to hunt down anything garden related that would enhance this exciting space. We are particularly delighted with the grass effect lino flooring.”

The Reading Garden was officially opened on Friday 7th December by Kent based author and former East Enders scriptwriter, Julie Wassmer and Red Eagle’s Wayne Hodgson, in a special whole school assembly to mark the occasion.

The new Reading Garden Room

Wayne Hodgson, Chairman of Red Eagle Foundation, the charity that contributed £2,000 to fund the initial phase of this long term project remarked; “This project is close to my heart, it is an area where I grew up and I am pleased to be putting something back into my local community.”

Julie Wassmer commented: “I felt very privileged to have been invited to St Anthony’s on the official opening of the Reading Garden and to have met dedicated members of the school’s staff, as well as many of the children who will benefit from having this precious new space in which to develop their reading skills. If one child’s journey in life can be improved by this, it will be a great achievement, but I’m certain the Reading Garden will do so for many. It’s as special as the children it serves.”