Prison officers turn classroom readers!

Prison officers swapped the cell block for the classroom yesterday as part of an initiative to teach children about the importance of learning to read.

Prison officers swapped the cell block for the classroom yesterday as part of an initiative to teach children about the importance of learning to read.

The two uniformed officers from HMP Wayland had youngsters from Thompson Primary School, near Watton, captivated as they read story after story and ensured each fictional character had their own special voice.

The reading sessions are just one activity organised for the school's book week, which has been timed to coincide with World Book Day on Thursday.

Teacher Helen Kemp said that as well as encouraging reading, having uniformed officers come to the school also helped build trust between authority figures and the children, making them seem approachable.


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She said: “It is important to have male role models to promote boys' reading and to get them interested in reading as a skill for life.

“The prison officers have come in partly to show they have got their jobs because they have learnt to read and write and that the children will need to be able to read for their jobs.

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“The children have been enthralled and unable to take their eyes of the officers as they are reading.”

For officer Steve Stadius-Horn, reading children's books aloud was far from a new experience.

He reads daily to his own four children and was keen to show the four to seven-years-olds at Thompson that reading was a thing of pleasure as well as a useful life skill.

He said: “It is important to show young people the importance of learning to read and I am a great believer in encouraging children to read for fun and not just because they need to.”

His colleague Jamie Vincent, who works in the induction department at the prison where prisoners go when they first come to Wayland, said that often young men resorted to crime because they lacked the vital skills, such as reading and writing, which are needed to get a job.

He gave the example of one prisoner who had played truant from school a lot as a youngster and as a result never learnt to read and write. When he grew up he found he was unable to get a job and so turned to crime.

He said: “I take it for granted that I can read and write and it was not until I worked in a prison environment that I realised there are lots of people who cannot. It is a factor in crime and reoffending.”

Tomorrow, children's author Alex Cullum, who writes the Rugly Puffs series of children's books, will be visiting the school.

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