Making a long term, sustainable change in the wider Dorset area.

Shaping Brains CIC
Company number 12165399

Registered office address

27 Old Gloucester Street, London, England, WC1N 3AX
Note: This is a mailing address rather than physical address. It is being used until we have a physical space, to protect personal info.  
Tel : 01202 871185

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Submitted by Emma Hartnell-Baker, Director

The Project

Literacy deeply and persistently impacts access to education, economic development, and life outcomes. The International Literacy Association views literacy as “the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines and in any context,”“The right to literacy is a basic fundamental human right.


According to the Literacy Trust 'Children born into communities with the most serious literacy challenges have some of the lowest life expectancies in England' And the paper Literacy Changes Lives offers a review of existing literature and presents overwhelming evidence that literacy has a significant relationship with a person’s happiness and success.It gives a clear indication of the dangers of poor literacy and also the benefits of improving literacy for the individual, the community, the workforce and the nation.


The goal of this project is to bring about wide spread positive change by not only eliminating illiteracy in our community but increasing the number of individuals who read for pleasure. Please read more on the 'Centre' Page.

I live in Dorset, and am determined to start a project that can also then be replicated by others that are passionate about eliminating illteracy and promoting early literacy success. As a unique training and research centre we can not only offer local children the opportunity to attend specialist play groups, but train parents, carers and early years educators to them take the strategies and techniques into their own homes, playgroups and local area. We create a ripple effect. Providing early help is recognised as being more effective in promoting the welfare of children and more cost efficient than reacting later when problems have escalated. Early help is everyone’s business (see Section 10 of the Children Act 2004) 
According to the Save the Children, Read On. Get On.: How reading can help children escape poverty, 2014 paper 'Before starting school: the early years of a child’s life are critical in establishing good early language levels: what happens before they have set foot in a school can shape their lives forever. They are working towards a historic goal for the UK: all children should be reading well by the age of 11 by 2025. We aim to be a part of this mission. 

I have taken the time to evaluate what is currently on offer, and also speak to organisations and those in the community about what is currently missing. While there is a lot I have found, that needs to be addressed, the key issues relate to an early intervention for literacy difficulties (including dyslexia) and to make information visible to all. 

The are of education most studied and research is undoubtedly the teaching of reading, and BILLIONS have been spent addressing this issue. The'Reading Wars' continue. 'Science' supposedly tells us one thing, and is debunked the next. I am known as 'The Reading Whisperer' for my ability to teach any student (any age) to read, more quickly than anyone else in the world that I know of. I go into schools and am videoed, and thousands of teachers across Australia have changed the way they teach. But after teaching, managing 2 large nurseries for 8 years (with Outstanding ratings) as an advisor to schools regarding behaviour management, as an OFSTED Inspector and also teacher trainer I have realised that little will change unless we make this visible. Rather than training a couple of hundred in a room we can reach millions using the internet, but if she SHOW how we can perhaps end the 'reading wars'.  
I therefore intend to have a video cam on my head while I work with students, so that anyone can see each student learning, from a different perspective than is usually offered. It makes training meaningful. I offer an ongoing 'commentary' when I have an audience, explaining why I am doing things, why I have adapted an activity, why focus on something eg making the most of incidental learning. Rather than doing this for visiting teachers (observing me teach a class) we can live stream, and also create 'learning story' videos, editing weeks or months worth of footage into an hour long video showing the learner from 'learning to read' and into the 'reading to learn' phase. This has the potential to not only revolutionise the way we train people to teach reading and spelling, but make it accessible to all. We can video children and adults alike, and break down some of the myths relating to illiteracy, eg by showing the learning stories of homeless students, and those in prison. Viewers can learn about the learner - understanding that they did not struggle because they were 'lazy' or because there was 'something wrong with them'. As even the most intelligent of children can have dyslexia, many can fail to qualify for any assistance until they have been failing for some time. We aim to empower parents and carers so that they do not need to 'wait to fail'.
We have contacted and spoken to a wide range of organisations and no-one else is currently offering anything like this. However, once local organisations can see that what we are doing is grounded in science but accessible, I envisage a range of collaborative projects and partnerships developing. For example those supporting children in the early years can add activities to their programs, libraries could tweak storytelling sessions with children to add in phonemic awareness games, Universities send their students to observe and participate, conduct their own research. While individuals and groups continue to argue about programs and their beliefs we focus on eradicating illiteracy one student at a time, but share that so that for every student who learns, more and more learn how to do this themselves.

We will employ local residents, and work with local nurseries and organisations and create a database of trained and supported volunteers who will go and help eradicate illiteracy across the county! This is why we have set up the Not for Profit, as we can focus on building a 'doing good' reputation with profits going back to help those who need it most. We can offer free support, paid for by revenue we generate by charging visitors a fee to observe, and by creating and selling the resources we use with students.
Of particular interest to philanthropists will be the 'teacherless teaching tools' we will develop and test on site, so that they can then be donated to homeless shelters, prisons and anywhere that functionally illiterate adults may want to learn without teachers. The live steaming and media coverage will ensure that illiterate adults know about this service, and how to access them without needing to do anything but walk through a door. 
As an independent training and research centre we can apply for funding to conduct original research. Ill be undertaking a doctorate, and aim to develop links with others interested in neuroscience.  

What funding will we need?

Lease and start up costs for centre. As much of our revenue will be derived from observers this will need to be a central factor when choosing premises.

Staff costs - initially Director, Research Assistant, Chief Technology Officer, Social Media/ IT manager, 2 Playgroup Staff Members.  

Anticipate needing funding for 24 months, by which time costs will be covered from training and resource sales, and fund raising.            

Estimate £200k funding needed over 2 years.