A Gloucestershire reading charity that operates in primary schools all over the county is looking for 200 volunteers to help extend its programme to even more children who need help learning to read.
With the hope of getting every child in Gloucestershire reading before they start secondary school, Read With Me provides one-to-one support in schools, with volunteers reading with children for 10 to15 minutes twice a week, every week during term time.
It is estimated that around 200,000 children in the UK leave primary school every year unable to read, and that children who can't read properly by age seven struggle to catch up for the rest of their education and working lives, reducing future employment choices, earning opportunities and increasing the chance of poverty.
The charity currently listens to around 1,500 children read per week — but it would like to do more and hopes to encourage 200 volunteers to pledge their time and ears.
Linda Cohen, founder of Read With Me, said: 'Our volunteers hear primary school children read twice a week for 10 to 15 minutes — we provide one-to-one time which allows for the discussion which improves social and communication skills and builds confidence. We’re here to give them the first building blocks of self-belief.
'Many of the children we hear read are never heard to read or read to at home. We’re able to expand their horizons and take a real interest in what makes them tick. We enhance our impact with whatever floats their boat — additional book titles, craft materials, chess sets — and we encourage them to fulfil their potential.'
This volunteer recruitment drive comes thanks to a big donation of £3,000 from Cheltenham-based Bennetts Coaches, a family-run business and Gloucestershire Business Awards 2023 winners.
Gavin Bennett, managing director of Bennetts Coaches, said: 'Being able to read is key to a child’s education and opens up so many opportunities later in life for them that may not otherwise have been possible.
'My wife is a teacher and she experiences firsthand the difficulties of supporting children in school with their reading. The staff at Bennetts have been fantastic raising the amount they have and we hope the funds go some way towards helping Read With Me achieve their goals.'
If you're interested in volunteering one to two hours of time per week to read with a school child, visit the Read With Me website to find out how to sign up.