Even in an area such as Oxfordshire, many children have trouble reading, but help is at hand through a volunteering charity.
ARCh Oxfordshire helps hundreds of children each year by finding volunteers to work with them in schools and help bring the joy of reading to them.
Teachers choose the children most in need of help – some have lost confidence, are shy or don’t communicate well, others don’t speak English at home and some time they just need a boost to help them catch up.
ARCh – Assisted Reading for Children in Oxfordshire – recruits, trains and supports volunteers in primary schools through individual sessions each week with their volunteer helper.
Volunteers aim to make children feel happy reading and to think of reading of something they can enjoy.
As well as reading they play word, board and memory games and draw – all things designed to help boost their confidence.
But the charity is now looking for more volunteers to help the project with training schemes on March 7 and 8 and May 9 and 10.
Volunteers are expected to help in a primary school for one and a half hours twice a week after attending two training sessions and commit to helping at a school for a year.
One such volunteer is David Jones who helps out at St Johns Primary School in Wallingford. He decided to volunteer after retiring from a 40-year career in communications.
David said: “I deemed I would ‘put a bit back into the community’ through volunteering and the field of literacy was an area where I’d always felt I could best use my skills and experience.
“When I learned that ARCh provide Assisted Reading for Children in more than 100 primary schools throughout my home county I knew that this was the volunteering opportunity I’d been looking for. I was unashamedly excited by the prospect of belonging to an organisation that is dedicated to making a lasting difference to the lives of children in Oxfordshire by inspiring them to discover the joy of reading.
“After completing ARCh’s training support programme, I was seconded to a school in Wallingford where I was introduced to the Year Five boys who have become my Three Musketeers.
“Two of the trio were ‘reluctant readers’ who lacked confidence while the other was said to “bark at print” and show little interest in books. In the three months we’ve read together, reading confidence has improved noticeably to the point where they happily read aloud in class.
“The boy who barked at print – what a great book title that would make – has, to our mutual delight, read six books including a 300-page novel.
“Becoming a volunteer reader with ARCh is truly one of the most inspiring and rewarding things I have ever done. And to think, I never really believed the adage that our schooldays are the best time of our lives. Thanks to ARCh – I do now!”
ARCh is looking for volunteers to help in Oxford city – particularly the Cowley, Littlemore, Blackbird Leys areas – and in Witney, Abingdon, Didcot, Bicester and Banbury.
They are also asking companies to get involved – working in partnership with ARCh will combine staff development with community outreach, using an established training and placement programme to achieve maximum impact in terms of staff development, staff morale and community perception, all while helping youngsters read.
For more information on volunteering, go to their website: archoxfordshire.org.uk.