How can you transform your pupil premium learners’ reading with BookTrust’s Letterbox Club? Key takeaways from our teacher webinar

Published on: 23 June 2024

Earlier this month, we hosted a webinar for schools looking at ways you can make a difference to children’s reading habits, especially for those children experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage.  

We heard from one of BookTrust's researchers, Dan Payne, to discuss the impact of Letterbox Club; spoke to Ruth Dunmore, a Deputy Head Teacher who has used Letterbox Club as part of her school’s pupil premium strategy; and children’s author, Gill Lewis, about the importance of agency through reading.   

Here we look at the key takeaways of the webinar along with some links to read more and FAQs. 

The benefits of reading for students experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage 

Reading brings profound and wide-ranging benefits that can have a lifelong impact on children. The research shows that reading regularly can: 

  • Improve social mobility and economic attainment for children experiencing disadvantage

  • Develop happier and healthier children with better mental wellbeing and self-esteem 

  • Help children to develop empathy and creativity 

  • Support better attainment results across the curriculum and not just literacy. 

However, reading for enjoyment declines as children move through school… How can Letterbox Club help? 

We ask Letterbox Club children their views on the programme and the impact it’s having on their reading behaviours. Here’s what we know:  

  • 96% of children say they like or love Letterbox Club 

  • 86% of children reported that they like or love the books in their parcels 

  • 68% of children are reading even more independently since receiving their parcels. 

The multiple ways Letterbox Club can be used in schools 

Through our research with schools and a targeted pilot with 10 schools in Wales we know that schools tailor the use of Letterbox Club in ways that work for them. Examples include: 

  • A way to engage families - either being invited into schools to be shown the parcels or being sent home to support the home-school connection

  • Parcels gifted to children to take home and enjoy with their families or trusted adults 

  • Resources in the parcels used for small group work or 1:1 ELSA support as conversation starters

  • Used as a language assistance tool to support their EAL students.   

Using Letterbox Club with children in receipt of pupil premium and vulnerable families 

Ruth Dunmore, former Deputy Headteacher at Westbrook Primary Academy in Haverhill, Suffolk, shared her experience of using Letterbox Club.  

The school demographic is made up of approximately 50% of children in receipt of pupil premium and post-COVID her school were struggling with disengaged families and reaching particular groups of children. Ruth and her team wanted to do something special for these children and families and get them engaged with a love of reading so looked at Letterbox Club as something for children to have at home, as many of their families didn’t own books at home.    

One of the most immediate responses from children was the pure joy it brought – one of the youngest bought her book in for show and tell. Families went on to join the local library to read more; and older children would come in for Book Week dressed as a character from their Letterbox Club book. 

“Jump at it if it’s something available to you as it was so special for us.” 

Importance of engaging children in the natural world through books 

Gill Lewis, bestselling children’s author, explains why she chooses to explore the natural world through her children’s stories - especially in Willow Wild Thing, an example of one of the books you can find in the Letterbox Club parcels.  

For children that don’t have access to the natural world or outdoor spaces, you can show them a different world and engage them through the power of books and stories. Their eyes are opened to trees, natural green space - which allows children to use their imagination and create their own world where they belong.  

Importance of agency through reading 

It is important for children to be able to see themselves through stories. 

In Willow Wild Thing,one of the characters called Mouse, lives with his grandmother – there is no explanation for this in the story - it is just something that is. For children that this relates to, they can see themselves represented and for characters living similar lives to themselves. It normalises different living arrangements and experiences - which then encourages children to have more agency over their emotions and their views of the world, which in turn develops empathy. 

FAQs

  • How much does Letterbox Club cost?

    It is £152 for 6 parcels (per child registered).

  • When do the parcels arrive and how do I distribute them?

    If you purchasepacks for fewer than 10 children, you will receive all six packs in one delivery. It is entirely up to you how they are then distributed to the children, but we suggest that they receive one each month over a six-month period, although you may want to giftthem to be enjoyed at home during the school holidays.

  • Can this resource be used in school?

    Yes. Some schools use this resource with individual children, or small groups before sending the parcels home for the children to keep. Others hold a tea and cake type information session with parents and children who are going to receive the parcels. Staff demonstrate how to play the games and introduce the books, modelling reading aloud and the benefits of shared reading; and give some suggestions for follow up activities that would be fun/beneficial to do at home. You can use the resources as flexibly as you like, to meet the needs of the children and families that you have identified.

  • Do the children who don’t receive the parcels feel left out?

    Schools vary how they gift the parcels, with the aim being that the children who receive the parcels feel special. This requires sensitivity and must be balanced with the impact on other children, so it will be helpful to get the messaging right for the children in your school. 

  • Can this be used for children with poor attendance?

    Yes. Some schools have found that this resource is helpful to support home-school engagement. It provides a positive experience for the child and family and can act as a non-threatening and helpful way of promoting conversations that build trust.

  • Can I use it with any of my Pupil Premium learners?

    Yes, absolutely. This is the perfect resource for any child in receipt of PPG - and you can use your PPG funding to purchase. The parcels are colour banded so that there is flexibility in which parcel set a child receives, so that you can match to age/stage and ability. Our research work includes hearing directly from children, teachers and parents/carers who tell us that children enjoy receiving these parcels and that they have a positive impact on their self-esteem and engagement with books – children identify themselves as readers. 

  • Can I use Letterbox Club for my pupils with SEN?

    Yes, depending on the type and level of SEN or AEN these children haveIt is not designed as a resource for children with an EHC Plan. Some schools gift Letterbox Club to children who are experiencing Social Emotional Mental Health needs– and it helps by providing positive opportunities for attachment/shared reading experiences. It can also be used to support engagement with reading and numeracy at home – which can be useful for children who, post pandemic, are not at age-expected levels in terms of speech language and communication or reading ability.

Letterbox Club

Join hundreds of schools and local authorities using Letterbox Club to bring the magic of reading and numeracy to pupil premium and vulnerable learners age 3-13.

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