Charity calls on volunteers to spare an hour a week to help school-children in Leeds improve their reading

Children’s literacy charity Bookmark is bringing its one-to-one reading programmes to primary schools in Leeds, and it’s calling for volunteers to support children online before the summer break.

By Emma Ryan
Wednesday, 28th April 2021, 11:45 am

It takes just an hour a week and involves reading, play games and chatting with a child about anything from dinosaurs to distant planets.

The programmes are currently taking place online so can all be done from a home computer or laptop. Each reading programme involves two 30-minute sessions a week, for six weeks, with a child aged five to nine. Volunteers receive full training and support and can select their session times to fit their schedule, using the Bookmark app.

The charity says this support could make a lasting difference to a child - especially in light of disruptions to learning over the last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns.

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The reading programmes can be carried out online.

When eight-year-old Josh joined the Bookmark programme, he was reading at the level of a five-year-old, and struggling with other aspects of his schoolwork.

His teaching assistant said: "Josh wasn’t able to answer very basic questions because he really couldn’t read. It would make him very stressed because he didn’t understand. He would get very frustrated and give up on his work easily.

"Since working with a Bookmark volunteer, there was a really positive shift towards him starting his work by himself. His confidence to speak up in class has improved as well. He never used to want to respond to questions, but now even if he’s wrong, he tries.”

The volunteer who works with him started doing it during lockdown when she was furloughed.

She said: "Josh was very bright, and we would have long conversations about deep sea creatures and dinosaurs. He also loved medals, so in one session I showed him an old medal that I have, belonging to a relative. He absolutely loved it.

“Really the best thing about the programme is getting a laugh from your reader, really making a connection with them and hearing them make progress with their reading, from one session to the next. I just felt satisfied that I had done something worthwhile.”

Bookmark is recruiting volunteers now to read with children this term and next. To find out more, visit