By Linda Cohen
Founder of Read with me
"At the start of 2020 I made the decision to try and help support children in Gloucester schools to learn to read well. I had already seen first hand through an employee volunteering scheme what could be achieved by giving each child one-to-one time for fifteen minutes, twice a week. I’d also had my eyes opened to the incredible poverty of vocabulary and life experience of some of our children and how they needed the opportunity to practise their communication and social skills in peace and quiet, which in turn helped them grow in confidence.
You don’t need me to give you the statistics about the number of children in the UK who struggle to read or the grim outcomes, which are pretty much guaranteed, if they aren’t able to read by the time they go to secondary school.
The really good news is that with this simple engagement, which can be delivered by volunteers, it’s possible to very quickly make a difference and transform the future for every child and to ensure they fulfil their potential.
Some might say that we started Read with me at the wrong time. Four weeks in we were in the thick of Covid, but if you want a masterclass in innovation and creative thinking then you won’t find much better.
For the last 12 months we’ve had to find ways to be able to deliver our help, creating packs of books from preloved donations which were delivered direct to children’s homes and establishing the free 'Not So Secret Book Club' which runs in outdoor spaces for every week of the school holidays, even Christmas, to allow children to pick up books, hear stories and take part in activities.
Once restrictions were lifted we were back in school and at the end of this month will be celebrating hearing our first children read for a whole school year. The results speak for themselves and we couldn’t be more proud of what these children have achieved.
Today we’re hearing 1,000 children read every week. We need to do MUCH more. We’ve set ourselves the task of increasing our provision to hear 2,500 children in the autumn term and we’ll need your help.
On July 4th we’ll be taking to the streets to run the Gloucester 10k, with our team which includes volunteers and colleagues from Gloucester Services and Gloucestershire Gateway Trust. In the proceeding week hundreds of the primary school children we hear read will also be running their own Team 10ks to help our fundraising and will receive a certificate for their efforts.
In a challenging year the opportunity to get out and walk and run has been a game changer, it’s certainly given me the chance to think and reset and to shoot the breeze with a running partner, once we’d overcome being out of puff. If you can help by making a donation or would like to get in touch to volunteer then we’d be hugely grateful."
It costs just £50 to hear a child read twice a week, every week, for a year.