SIX-YEAR-OLD Aoibheann Coyne from Tallaght has become the 1,000th child to enrol in an innovative after-school programme that aims to improve literacy.
A pupil at St Brigid's Junior National School in Tallaght, Aoibheann and her friends will be taking part in the Doodle Den programme, an initiative to improve the literacy of children in senior infants.
The children are provided with four-and-a-half hours of additional teaching and fun classroom activities a week across the school year to improve reading and comprehension skills.
A previous evaluation of the programme conducted two years ago found significant benefits to the children who had taken part, and it has been expanding since then.
Doodle Den is being delivered in nine schools in Tallaght this year, as well as one in Ballyfermot.
Outside Dublin, six schools in Limerick and one in Carlow will also be taking part in the programme.
Its facilitator, Helen Egan, who will be teaching Aoibheann and her friends, said there is a noticeable difference in the children who take part in the programme.
"You can often spot the Doodle Den children in class afterwards. Many are confident learners and do well in their schooling. It gives an added boost to their schooling," she said.
Children and their parents can work through phonics, sight words and writing activities on a new website.
The literacy programme is co-ordinated by the Tallaght-based Childhood Development Initiative (CDI), whose CEO Marian Quinn said it wanted to highlight the importance of targeted children's literacy programmes and that it was essential these supports are available.
To make the programme more widely available, www.doodleden.ie was launched today, and Ms Quinn said families were encouraged to visit the site and have fun engaging with literacy skills.
Figures have shown that as many as one in 10 children leave Irish primary schools with serious literacy difficulties.
The Irish National Teachers' Organisation has warned that progress on literacy and numeracy has been hampered by large classes and a lack of teaching materials
Meanwhile, International Literacy Day is being celebrated worldwide today.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) said: "Literacy is one of the key elements needed to promote sustainable development."
It said literacy empowers people so they can make the right decisions in the areas of economic growth, social development and environmental integration.
The influential body said: "Literacy is a basis for life-long learning and plays a crucial foundation role in the creation of sustainable, prosperous and peaceful societies."
The theme for this year is Literacy and Sustainable Development, according to UNESCO.