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Become a reading volunteer and change a child's story

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31st Jan 2023 Life

Become a reading volunteer and change a child's story
At Bookmark, we want every child to read. 8 children in the average class in the UK are unable to read well when they leave primary school. We need more reading volunteers to help us change this.
Volunteering is a great outlet for self-improvement while helping others, and with Bookmark, you can truly make a difference to the futures of primary school children. Three Bookmark volunteers have shared their stories with us, sharing the unexpected learning curves and hidden gems of reading with children.
Claire
Claire began reading with Zach in 2019, in person at a local school. As a freelance writer and editor, she wanted to share her love of books with children who may have not discovered theirs. Her experience as a Bookmark volunteer taught her more than she expected.
During their sessions, Claire encouraged Zach to see reading as fun. At the beginning of their programme, he asked Claire why anyone would read in their spare time. Seeing this as an opportunity, she highlighted to him that there are books out there on all his favorite hobbies:
“Do they have books about boxing?” he asked. “Yes,” I said. “There’ll be books on boxing.” “And dogs?” I nodded. “And Capoeira? And football…?” “Yes,” I said with a smile. “There are books on anything you can think of.”
As their sessions continued, Claire noticed a shift. When packing up in their final session, Zach spotted a book they had not yet reached. The book was a more advanced level than those he’d been reading, but he exclaimed that he was happy and confident to give it a go at home. In this moment, Claire remembered the child she'd met at the beginning of her sessions, who didn’t believe anyone would read if they could choose not to and started to understand her impact as a Bookmark volunteer.
Enjoying reading is a powerful tool for a primary school child. Reading for pleasure provides a route into learning and opens a world of opportunities. For young readers, uncovering this joy boosts confidence, both in the classroom and at home.
Sally
Sally joined Bookmark as a volunteer in 2021. She had recently retired and wanted to lend her time to others. Before volunteering with Bookmark, she had never worked with children, so beginning the sessions was truly a step out of her comfort zone. Sally felt a real connection to Bookmark’s mission and knew the challenge would pay off.
“Volunteering has made me feel more content. I feel I am making a difference, however small and incremental. I get huge joy from engaging with children via Bookmark and making them laugh as we read in funny voices and play games.
All the pupils I have read with so far have been enthusiastic and eager to learn and their enthusiasm has been contagious. The sessions do make you think on your feet somewhat, trying to explain what words mean and trying to improve a child’s comprehension of a story. I’ve also really enjoyed building up a rapport with the children, chatting to them and listening to them making up stories and using their imaginations.”
As well as finding joy in her time as a reading volunteer, Sally tells us that through her experience she learnt the true extent of the importance of literacy:
“Being able to read is a fundamental life skill and not having that skill can have far reaching consequences. Literacy is important for everyone. Literacy can help reduce inequality and lead to empowerment.” 
Aurélien
Aurélien  signed up to read with Connor online, via Bookmark’s secure platform in 2020. He had been looking for a way of getting back into volunteering with children as he’d found a past experience rewarding. The flexibility of Bookmark caught his eye, as the online programme fitted in well around his work commitments.
“I was really attracted to Bookmark because it is so flexible. The six-week programme with two half-hour sessions a week really fitted well around my work. It’s an easy commitment. The support from Bookmark has been good and the volunteer discussion platform is really active. If you put a question on there, the answer always comes back really promptly.”
Aurélien noticed how important it seemed that Connor engaged with reading with a different adult, and he felt that the conversations they shared were just as valuable for his learning and enjoyment of the reading sessions. They shared jokes, talked about their interests, and read books. Together they forged a valuable connection, made possible by the online reading programme.  
Young girl sat with a laptop and headphones on
Reading isn’t just about books. It’s about reading a road sign, an instruction manual, a birthday card. It’s understanding a job application or an important letter. It’s building connections with friends, family, and communities. There are 7.1 million adults in England who struggle to read and face challenges every day. By supporting children who are falling behind with their reading, you can have a personal impact on their future opportunities.
400 children are waiting for a volunteer to help them learn to read. Sign up to become a Bookmark volunteer today and change a child’s story.
If you want to find out more, or have any questions, you can get in touch with us on Instagram @Bookmarkreading or email us at info@bookmarkreading.org.

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