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Haileybury Students Help Others Close the Reading Gap

NEWS 8 Nov 2021

Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela said that: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Weaving social justice programs into a school’s fabric helps students develop self-worth and fine-tune their sense of equality, better understand human rights and appreciate the importance of every member of society.

Many schools develop programs and initiatives that allow students to see another side of the community in which they live. They are exposed to inequalities and have a chance to explore why these happen and what can be done to try and close the gaps.

Over 30 charities benefit from the Social Justice Program at Haileybury including The Salvation Army, Clean Up Australia Day, RSPCA, Melbourne City Mission, Cancer Council and the Indigenous Literacy Foundation.

The Smith Family Student2Student Reading Program

This year, students at Haileybury also decided to support The Smith Family’s Student2Student program that matches students who need to improve their reading with peer buddies who help them improve. Students in Years 3 to 8 who are up to two years behind in their reading development are teamed with an older student who is trained by The Smith Family to develop reading confidence and skills.

Research clearly shows a link between the development of literacy and numeracy skills at an early age and ‘higher levels of educational achievement, greater employability, higher earnings and greater social participation.'

The program gives practical and potentially life-changing support to students who may otherwise fall behind in the classroom—but the buddies also benefit, says Sarah Tallis, a teacher at Haileybury City.

“They are able to see at first hand the difficulties that many students face in their learning due to poor reading skills. Many of the volunteers are high academic achievers and being able to see how difficult it can be for other students gives them a new perspective,” says Sarah.

“Additionally, the students hopefully develop a lifelong motivation to volunteer their time to help others in need.”

Dhimanya Dissanayake (Year 10) says the joy that comes with helping someone who wants to be helped is ‘beyond words.’

“This program is one which seems so simple, yet the reward that comes with it is immense. My reader is a student in Year 4 who is not the most confident reader but after only a few sessions a week she has made improvements. In the beginning we would only get through two pages during a session, however, she now can confidently get through four to five pages with little to no help,” says Dhimanya.

Aashi Mishra (Year 9) volunteered for the program because of a personal love of reading.

“My buddy is an amazing storyteller and she is enthusiastic about everything she reads. She doesn’t let mistakes prevent her from telling her story. My buddy has approached each tricky word with poise and if she feels uncertain, she asks for my help,” says Aashi.

Max Chen (Year 9) volunteered as someone who experienced reading difficulties in the past.

“Something that I enjoy about helping my buddy is seeing him starting to conquer some of his troubles in reading and making good progress,” says Max.

“This program has helped me further develop my teaching skills and has taught me how to work well with new people.”