Irish News Young News Readers project will highlight importance of literacy

Pupils from Star of the Sea PS at the launch of the Irish News Young News Readers project at St Mary's University College. Included (from left) are Noel Doran (Irish News editor), Donna Hazzard (head of literacy at St Mary’s), Iain Hoy (CBI NI), guest speaker Professor Andrew Lambirth and Professor Peter Finn (principal St Mary’s University College). Photo: Declan Roughan
Gary McDonald Business Editor

NORTHERN Ireland won't be able to function as a modern, dynamic and prosperous economy unless adequate standards of child literacy are maintained, according to the CBI.

The business body, in tandem with distribution & logistics firm Newspread, is a key supporter of the 2018 Young News Readers project, a critical media literacy project run in partnership with the Irish News and St Mary's University College in Belfast.

Lacking vital literacy skills is seen as holding a person back at every stage of his or her life. As a child they won't be able to succeed at school, as a young adult they will be locked out of the job market, and as a parent they won't be able to support their own child's learning. This inter-generational cycle makes social mobility and a fairer society more difficult.

People with low literacy skills may not be able to read a book or newspaper, understand road signs or price labels, make sense of a bus or train timetable, fill out a form, read instructions on medicines or use the internet.

“Ensuring we improve child literacy should be an issue all businesses across Northern Ireland take very seriously indeed," CBI NI's senior policy adviser Iain Hoy told guests at the launch of the Young News Readers project at St Mary's University College.

"The forward-looking economy we are working to create is dependent on ensuring that we have a steady supply of highly educated and skilled workers, and ensuring adequate standards of child literacy is the first step toward achieving this."

He added: “Failing to get the basics right and allowing children to progress through education with poor levels of reading and writing is nothing less than selling our economy short.

“We need to do whatever we can to make sure that literacy gaps are addressed and that all children in Northern Ireland have the best possible chance to fulfil their potential.”

Professor Peter Finn, principal of St Mary's University College, said: “Young News Readers assists teachers by bringing valuable learning resources on current affairs into the classroom to enhance pupils’ skills in reading, talking, listening and writing. It also offers opportunities for cross-curricular work and extended learning opportunities at home with the family.”

Irish News editor Noel Doran added: "Our objective has always been to deliver news knowledge and develop literacy understanding in the classroom, and by any standards the project has been an enormous success, involving more than 4,500 pupils in our first year. We are looking forward to taking the initiative to another very positive stage in 2018."

The launch of the 2018 Irish News Young News Readers project was part of the Teaching for the Future literacy event which had teachers in attendance from primary and post primary schools across the north and included a panel discussion of teachers who had successfully completed the project in 2017 to share their learnings.

More than 4,500 pupils in 120 schools took part last year, involving young students from Derry to Newry and even London.

The project (more details at is designed to introduce a new generation of readers to the power of the news.

News can be a powerful tool in helping them to learn about the world around them, forming their opinions, expressing their views.

The Young News Readers project invites teachers to deliver news knowledge and to develop literacy understanding within the classroom, while supporting the varied demands of the wider curriculum.

Designed for key stage 2 and 3 pupils in primary and post primary schools, the Irish News critical literacy project brings an invigorating eight weeks of activities that offer a different way to challenge the knowledge and understanding of young readers.

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