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The Reader calls out for volunteers to read with care experienced children

The Reading Heroes project by the Reader charity is seeking new volunteers to join its ranks and help children aged 2-15 improve their reading skills and develop a love for reading. This initiative aims to enhance children’s confidence and encourage them to read for pleasure.

Since 2016, a project has been underway in Merseyside that involves matching care children experienced and young adults with skilled volunteers to read together either online or in person weekly for a duration of six to nine months.

The Reader calls out for volunteers to read with care experienced children

An experienced project team based at The Reader in Liverpool oversees the project. They train and support the volunteers to deliver lively and engaging sessions. The team also provides ongoing safeguarding provision and assistance for carers, partners, volunteers, and the young people involved in the project.

If a child or young person is in care now or has ever been in care at any point in their life, they are considered care experienced. Children who have been in residential care, foster care, kinship care, or who are living at home under a supervision order are included in this. In England, there were 82,170 children under the care of local authorities in 2022, and the number is still growing annually.

According to reports, children’s success in school is more influenced by their enjoyment of reading than by the socioeconomic status of their family (OECD, 2002). In contrast to 73% of children who were not looked after, only 49% of looked after children at KS2 in 2019 met the expected standard for reading (Department for Education, 2020). Additionally, compared to children living with their birth families, children in care are four times more likely to experience mental health issues (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.”

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 

The Reader is looking for new volunteers to read aloud to children online who are between the ages of five and fifteen. Anywhere in the country can serve as a base for volunteers.

A new Reading Heroes initiative called Tiny Heroes is looking for volunteers in Liverpool and Sefton who would like to read aloud to a child in person between the ages of two and four. Volunteers receive a rhyme bag filled with toys, props, and books for these rhyme-and story-based sessions.

A minimum six-month commitment is needed for both. All volunteers must complete a number of safeguarding requirements, such as an enhanced DBS check, a reference request, and safeguarding training. Training will be given and conducted online.
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.”

Reading Heroes is supported by The Rayne Foundation, Segelman Trust, Masonic Charitable Foundation / West Lancashire Freemasons.

For more information or to apply to become a volunteer, visit the website.

READ MORE: THE READER REVEALS A NEW SEASON OF EVENTS FOR SPRING IN CALDERSTONES PARK

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