A new charity aimed at improving literacy in primary school children in Hull launched at an event hosted by Andrew Jackson Solicitors last night.
The charity, Ready, Steady, Read, has been co-founded by Joanne Walker and Paula Stead who share a belief in the power of literacy to improve the aspirations and outcomes for children and young people in the city, along with a passion for the joy that a lifelong love of reading can bring.
Joanne and Paula had previously volunteered to read with children in local schools, but felt that a more coordinated and focussed effort was needed in order to help as many young people as possible reach their potential. Deciding to take on this challenge themselves, the charity was founded with the aim of recruiting and training volunteer readers and matching them with local schools to provide additional support and one-to-one coaching with children.
The programme has already proven itself a success following a soft launch working with Wansbeck Primary School in Longhill and Wheeler Street Primary School off Anlaby Road.
Joanne said: “We have used this time working with two the schools to hone our processes and really refine what we can offer and how we can work with schools and teachers to enhance what they already provide.
“When someone volunteers with us, we meet them for an informal chat to explain what the role involves and the commitment they are making.”
Before any volunteers are placed in a school, the charity checks references and runs a criminal record check. Then they are given training so that they are up to speed on the latest techniques and practices for teaching and supporting reading along with attending Hull Safeguarding Board’s Level 1 Safeguarding course.
Joanne continued: “We’re very committed to safeguarding the welfare of the children and young people that we work with and we have strict policies in place to ensure this. It’s a thorough, but important process and we make it as easy as possible for the volunteers.”
Once they have been matched with a school, volunteers typically spend two hours per week there during term time. The sessions usually involve the volunteer working one-to-one with a child for around 15 minutes at a time to give them individual coaching and support with their reading.
The individual children are chosen by the school and the charity funds a reward scheme, which consists of a progress chart with prizes along the way, to help keep the children engaged.
Joanne said: “The feedback we’re getting is fantastic. We’re finding that the children are really looking forward to the sessions and we’re being told by the schools that some of them are even choosing to read at the breakfast club, rather than playing on a computer or tablet.
“This is so encouraging for us because in addition to improving reading levels and reducing the gap between reading and and chronological age, one of our goals is to encourage a love of reading.
The charity now has plans to expand into other schools in the area, with four more joining the scheme following the Easter half-term holiday, following sponsorship from Sewell Facilities Management.
Martin Stead, Managing Director of Sewell Facilities Management, said: “We work in many schools across the region and are all too aware of the current pressures on funding. We are also passionate about supporting the schools in giving every pupil the best possible chance to succeed in life and literacy is a vital part of that.
“As a charity Ready Steady Read can deliver on both those fronts and therefore help ensure all children have the life skill of literacy. Sewell Facilities Management is delighted to be supporting the charity in their work and we are really looking forward to seeing the volunteers welcomed into the schools next term.”
Paula said: “We’re delighted to be working with Sewell Facilities Management and we’re looking forward to being able to place more volunteers in schools as a result of their generous sponsorship. As a charity, the support of corporate partners can make a huge difference to the level and scale of service we can provide, whether that’s by sponsoring the training of a volunteer or funding a reading corner.”
The charity is now recruiting more volunteers to enable them to expand further in the coming months. Paula said: “We’re really starting to see the impact that working with these children can have and we want to be able to offer it to more young people in the city.”
Volunteers are asked to commit a minimum of two hours per week for the duration of one term. If you are interested in volunteering, please visit www.readysteadyread.org where you can find out more about the charity and apply online to volunteer as a reader, or call Joanne Walker on 07949 734175.