Schoolreaders, a national children’s literacy charity, has seen a huge surge in new volunteers signing up to its one-to-one reading scheme for primary school children since the first lockdown.
Prior to the first school closures in March 2021, the charity was providing a one-to-one reading support session to over 12,700 children each week in over 650 primary schools.
Over a thousand new volunteers have since signed up to Schoolreaders which means that once they are able to be in schools, a further 10,000 children can be supported with their reading each week.
There is a huge demand for this service with more than 10% of primary schools in the UK requesting Schoolreaders volunteers.
While schools are closed, Schoolreaders has adapted its provision in order to continue supporting children’s reading both in school and at home with digital volunteering and the Schoolreaders Storytime video book library.
“It is really heartening to see that more people from the general public are stepping up to help support their local communities through volunteering, since the start of the pandemic,” said Jane Whitbread, Founder of Schoolreaders. “We have seen this first with the NHS and now in education. The impact of this second wave of school closures on children’s well-being, learning and future life chances is now top of the nation’s agenda.”
Good literacy at primary school is a cornerstone of success in secondary education and in later life. But as many as one in four children in the UK leave primary school unable to read well, and this figure will only be made worse by the COVID-19 crisis.
“During the previous lockdown, we found that the gap between some groups of pupils had widened, whether down to lack of access to technology or lack of confidence and the uncertainty of knowing how best to support children,” said Andrea Ward, Headteacher of Renhold VC Primary School on the effect the school closures are having on her pupils, “Apart from rebuilding the emotional wellbeing of our pupils, when schools reopen, our priority throughout the school is reading. We passionately believe that teaching children to read is one of our core purposes and reading culture links directly to children’s attainment. One element of this is developing a love of reading or ‘reading for pleasure’ and this is where the Schoolreaders volunteers come into their own.”
The network of Schoolreaders’ volunteers across the UK listen to children read in primary schools and this one-to-one reading support helps children’s reading fluency, comprehension and enjoyment. It is a crucial supplement to classroom teaching for many children. The charity’s aim is for all children to leave primary school able to read well.
An annual survey commissioned by Schoolreaders in partnership with the Institute for Research in Education of the University of Bedfordshire highlighted how much impact volunteers have had in the schools they support.
92% of schools noted a positive impact on children’s reading confidence, 78% on their reading fluency and 73% on their self-esteem after 6 months with a volunteer.
“If a child leaves primary school not reading properly it has life-long negative consequences as they are unable to fully access their secondary education,” Jane Whitbread added.
“Our services will be needed more than ever as so many children have fallen behind with their reading since the school closures. It is amazing to see the support of the UK public and we are delighted to have so many people approaching us.”