Volunteering with the Schoolreaders charity

Round & About

Jay Blades

Peter Henry tells us about his rewarding role as a volunteer with Schoolreaders… Perhaps you could sign up to change lives, too?

Schoolreaders is a national children’s literacy charity which helps children to catch up on their reading by recruiting, training and placing volunteers into primary schools in their local area.

I am happily retired after a successful career however; I can truthfully say that nothing I did in my professional life seems as worthwhile and satisfying as watching the children I read with improve their literacy.

Why is this so important? One in four children leave primary school unable to read to the expected standard.

This means they cannot fully access secondary education and only one in 10 of these children will get a GCSE in English and Maths. This can severely diminish their life chances. One in seven adults in England (7.1 million) are functionally illiterate so cannot read instructions on a medicine label, sit a driving theory test or fill in a job application form. That is why helping children to improve their literacy at primary level, has never been so important.

Nothing I did in my professional life seems as worthwhile and satisfying as watching the children I read with improve their literacy.”

I volunteer in a local infants’ school and my role is to focus on those children, especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, who need a little extra help learning to read. Fortunately, one thing of which you can be sure is that all children aged between five and seven are eager to learn and great fun to be with!

I, like many other Schoolreaders volunteers, could share a great many heart-warming stories. These include the boy who, for over a year, had really struggled, then one day was comprehending sentences and asking questions about the book, to the girl who not only reads the stories, but gives each character a different voice. I always return home from school with a spring in my step!

We are always in need of readers especially as more and more schools are asking for our help, which is provided absolutely free. So, if what you have read here has inspired you to think about joining us, and you can commit to an hour a week during term-time for a year, the next step is easy – please just visit School Readers to learn more.

Reading made easy

Round & About

Jay Blades

Could you help change lives by volunteering with the local charity which helped Jay Blades MBE

Read Easy offers free and confidential, one-to-one coaching, from trained volunteers. The charity encourages adults to come forward and make the phone call that could transform their lives.

Coaches and learners meet twice a week at approved local venues, or online, to work for just half an hour at a time through a structured, phonics-based reading programme.

There are many adults who struggle to read. For them, everyday tasks such as booking a doctor’s appointment, reading road signs or doing the food shopping can be incredibly challenging.

Parents and grandparents, who cannot read, are not able to provide this support for their children and their learning, with many missing out on the important bonding time that comes with sharing a bedtime story.

The BBC1 documentary Jay Blades: Learning to Read at 51 followed Jay, The Repair Shop presenter and Chancellor at Bucks New University, as he learnt to read with Read Easy. Like many other parents who struggle to read, Jay had never been able to read his children bedtime stories. The highlight of the documentary was when Jay reached his goal of being able to read his teenage daughter one of her favourite childhood books.

Those who struggle to read should not feel embarrassed about coming forward and asking for help. The charity team say: “There are lots of different reasons why people don’t learn to read in childhood. For some it may have been a lack of support from their own family or school, for others it may have been undiagnosed dyslexia. But people should not feel ashamed or embarrassed about it. We’re friendly, welcoming and here to help, whatever your age.”

Here is a comment from one of Read Easy’s recent success stories: “I started the Read Easy programme in 2020 when the country went into lockdown. I found it frustrating not being able to help my children with home schooling. Now, I can read with my family, enjoy reading novels and have a new-found confidence in myself and in the future. More than anything I want to show my kids that you can do anything if you put your mind to it. I want to see the smiles on their faces when I read to them. It’s such a massive achievement and nothing makes me happier.”

The Read Easy Chilterns team cover Wycombe, Aylesbury, Amersham, Chesham, Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, The Chalfonts, Wendover and surrounding areas. To find out more about the team please visit readeasy.org.uk/groups/chilterns. For more information about seeking help learning to read you’re welcome to call Andy Gaze on 07810 184 371.

For help with reading and to volunteer in the West Berkshire area please contact the West Berkshire group at readeasy.org.uk/groups/read-easy-swindon-west-berkshire

To get involved in the Reading area, please get in touch with the Read Easy Regional Advisor Michelle Baker at [email protected] and in the Oxford area at readeasy.org.uk/groups/oxford-east/