An avid reader and patron of the National Literacy Trust, the Duchess of Cornwall was in her element during a visit to Swindon this week. On Thursday, she celebrated the one-year anniversary of the Swindon Stories campaign during two engagements, participating in games and activities, meeting poetry award-winners, and interacting with foster children and their carers.
Swindon Stories, the National Literacy Trust’s Hub in the town, aims to improve literacy outcomes in the area. The organization’s centres across the UK work with local partners to improve lives in low literacy level-regions.
The Duchess of Cornwall’s day began with a visit to the North Swindon Library for a ‘booknic’ with 200 local schoolchildren. Storytellers Dom Berry and Olivia Armstrong joined the event, which celebrated the Lost Words poetry competition. Primary schools in Swindon were invited to take part in the contest, which was inspired by the book The Lost Words by Jackie Morris and Robert Macfarlane. The book features nature words that have left common usage.
Through the competition, children learned old Wiltshire dialect and honed their creative language skills. The Duchess of Cornwall joined children in a Lost Words hunt, read them a poem celebrating old Wiltshire language, and presented the winners of the poetry competition with a certificate and a copy of The Lost Words. Before she departed, a nine-year-old local schoolboy called Sebastian helped the duchess cut a special nature-themed cake to mark the event.
Clarence House’s Twitter account even joined the fun, posting a quiz inviting people to guess the meaning of the old Wiltshire term, “Galleybagger” (or scarecrow).
Following the library event, the Duchess of Cornwall visited the Lyndhurst Centre, a facility for foster children. At the centre she joined foster carers and children for The Lost Words-themed crafts and discussed the work of the National Literacy Trust in reaching foster families.
Swindon has a higher percentage of looked after children than the national average, and part of the goal of Swindon Stories is to ensure these young people are meeting literacy outcomes. Only six percent of foster children go on to higher education, and the Duchess of Cornwall learned more about the programmes in place to help change these outcomes.
Through their partnership with WHSmith, Swindon Stories is able to give every child taken into care book tokens and a notebook. They also train foster parents to bring reading into the home, both to improve literacy and promote attachment through reading time.
“We are delighted to have hosted the Duchess of Cornwall in Swindon today,” said Anish Harrison, Hub manager for Swindon Stories. “It is an honour to have her as patron of the National Literacy Trust. I am extremely proud of all the work we do to raise literacy levels for every child we can, and it’s been brilliant to be able to showcase that to Her Royal Highness today.”