The Irish News helps to create young newsreaders

Pupils from St Mary's Star of the Sea PS with Irish News Editor Noel Doran, CBI NI Senior Policy Advisor Iain Hoy and St Mary's principal Peter Finn

SCHOOLS are being invited to help improve their pupils reading and writing skills by using The Irish News.

The Irish News Critical Literacy Project introduces young people to daily newspapers in an interactive way to help build their literacy skills.

The project was created by St Mary's University College, in collaboration with The Irish News and supported by CBI and Newspread.

It delivers news knowledge and develops literacy understanding in the classroom, while supporting the varied demands of the wider curriculum.

Created exclusively for The Irish News and designed for pupils aged eight to 12, it involves up to eight weeks of activities that offer a different way to challenge the knowledge and understanding of young readers.

It also introduces young people to the world of newspapers. They will receive their own copy of The Irish News delivered weekly. At the end of the project, successful pupils will receive a personalised certificate of achievement.

The project allows children the opportunity to read a wider range of materials, which helps develop their inferential knowledge and deduction skills. They are becoming familiar with the different types of news stories and are able to see the impact that events of all types can have on their local areas and within Northern Ireland.

More than 4,500 pupils in 120 schools took part last year.

Irish News Editor Noel Doran said: "Our objective has always been to deliver news knowledge and develop literacy understanding in the classroom, and I think that by any standards the project has been an enormous success.

"To have over 4,500 pupils involved in our first year has been hugely encouraging, and we are looking forward to taking the initiative to another very positive stage."

Professor Peter Finn, principal of St Mary's University College said the institution's involvement in the project reflected its commitment to community and civic engagement through education for the common good.

"We believe young news readers can assist teachers by bringing valuable learning resources on current affairs into the classroom to enhance pupils' skills in reading, talking, listening and writing," he said.

"It also offers opportunities for cross-curricular work and extended learning opportunities at home with the family."

Iain Hoy, Senior Policy Adviser, CBI NI, said child literacy should be issue that all businesses across Northern Ireland take seriously.

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

"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 NI have the best possible chance to fulfil their potential."

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