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The Reader has launched a major recruitment drive for new volunteers

3 weeks ago

The Reader has launched a major recruitment drive for new volunteers
The Reader - Calderstones Mansion. Calderstones Park

The Reader charity has launched a major recruitment drive for new volunteers to join its Reading Heroes project which helps children aged 2-15 to improve their confidence and spark a love of reading for pleasure.

The project has been running since 2016 and pairs care experienced children and young people in Merseyside with highly trained volunteers to read together online or in-person, weekly for a period of six to nine months.

The project is overseen by an experienced project team based at The Reader in Liverpool who train and support the volunteers to deliver lively and engaging sessions and provide ongoing safeguarding provision and assistance for carers, partners, volunteers and the young people.

A child or young person is ‘care experienced’ if they are living, or have lived, in care at any stage in their life. This includes children who have experienced, or are currently, living in residential care, foster care, kinship care, or at home with a supervision order. In 2022, there were 82,170 children looked after by local authorities in England and this number is continuing to rise each year.

Reading enjoyment has been reported as more important for children’s educational success than their family’s socio-economic status (OECD, 2002). However, in 2019, at KS2 only 49% of looked after children reached the expected standard for reading compared to 73% of non-looked after children (Department for Education, 2020). Children in care are also four times more likely to have a mental health problem than children living with their birth families (NSPCC, 2015).

Kara Orford, Head of Children & Young People at The Reader, said:

“The number of care experienced children is growing in the UK, and research tells us that they are more at risk of social, emotional and mental health problems, and less likely to do well at school. There is a clear need to support these children and we know that Reading Heroes has an enormously positive impact on the young people we read with. We cannot deliver this amazing project without the wonderful Reading Heroes volunteers and as we expand into new areas, we urgently need more of them.”

Reading Heroes - Image provided by The Reader
Reading Heroes

Findings from children and young people who took part in the Reading Heroes’ evaluation in 2022 revealed that:

80% said they enjoy reading more
89% are reading things they wouldn’t have tried before
91% found it relaxing
89% said it was good to talk about their feelings

They’re now recruiting new volunteers who can read with to a child aged between 5-15 years old online. Volunteers can be based from anywhere in the country.

Volunteers based in Liverpool and Sefton can also apply to read in person with a child aged between 2-4 years as part of Tiny Heroes, a new strand of the Reading Heroes project aimed at early years. These sessions incorporate rhymes and storytelling and volunteers are provided with a rhyme bag full of toys, props and books.

Both require a minimum commitment of six months. Training will be provided and will take place online, and all volunteers will need to undertake a number of safeguarding requirements including an enhanced DBS check, a reference request & safeguarding training.

A Virtual School Headteacher said:

“Our children have frequently suffered trauma, neglect and sometimes abuse. This of course affects their ability to focus, their ability to trust and their ability to self-calm and regulate. Reading Heroes has offered them all these things in bucketfuls and more. One particular young person has been out of school for some time, not being able to have his very complex needs met by even some of our more specialist provisions. This has in turn put pressure on his home life where his behaviour continues to challenge. He has responded so well to Reading Heroes and thoroughly enjoys his slot. If only just this child was affected, it makes the service successful in impacting on the lives of very vulnerable young people. But there are so many more besides him.”

A carer for a child taking part in Reading Heroes said:

“With a consistent reading buddy in Sam, who he became so fond of, he started to look forward to his weekly sessions. Freddie now loves picking out a book from his growing collection…and reading the story aloud. His progress…is remarkable.”

Find more information on The Reader website.

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