£1000 from the Trust for ABC to Read West Berkshire Volunteer Reading Mentors

ABC to Read logoABC (Assisting Berkshire Children) to Read is a small local charity that recruits, trains and supports community volunteers to mentor primary school children who are struggling to read and lack confidence.  They have been delivering this service since 2004 and help around 300 children a year to improve in their reading levels.  One in eight children leave primary school without the required reading level that enables them to cope with the secondary school curriculum.  In 2012 disadvantaged children in West Berkshire had the worst attainment in England at primary school level (Ofsted).

Reading togetherMarie-Claire Dillon has been a volunteer at ABC (Assisting Berkshire Children) to Read for the past year.  ‘Thanks to funding from Greenham Trust, The Englefield Charitable Trust, the Berkshire Regional Panel of Sovereign Housing and Thatcham Town Council we have expanded our presence in West Berkshire.  We are delighted with the recent award of £1000 from Greenham Trust which enabled us to train a further 12 volunteers last month in Newbury and Thatcham – 5 more than we had originally anticipated.’

The charity now has 34 reading mentors working in 17 schools across West Berkshire.  The volunteers work individually with 3 children for 30 minutes twice a week for a school year.  These sessions result in pupils improving their performance, confidence in, and attitude towards reading.  Moreover, pupils who work with our volunteers benefit from improvement in their general self-confidence and overall achievement.

Volunteers are often recruited at networking events and are usually parents themselves who are keen to extol the virtues and share their love of reading.  Vacancies for volunteers are also advertised via the Reading Voluntary Action website and newsletter. Men are particularly encouraged to apply.

Reading together as a familyThe initial training course includes safeguarding, insights into why some children find reading difficult, tips for engaging with children, how to interact using books, word games and puzzles,  and provides a follow-up training course with support and guidance from the area fieldworker.  Volunteers are matched with suitable schools and are offered ongoing support.

As well as training new volunteers, ABC to Read recently held free reading workshops for parents in Thatcham, Newbury and Chieveley.   The aim of these popular workshops is to share with parents some of the techniques proven to help children improve their reading skills.  If you are out and about you might also spot ABC to Read at open story telling sessions in central Newbury.

The ABC to Read Board with their nominationABC to Read celebrates its 10th anniversary this year and has recently won the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in recognition of its outstanding work with local children. The charity has seen extremely high success rates in recent years, with their latest annual report showing an impressive 98% improvement in reading performance and 97% improvement in children’s attitudes towards reading.

You can find out more about the valuable work they do or how to apply to become a volunteer on their website www.abctoread.org.uk   Schools interested in receiving this service can contact Marcia Rowlinson on 0118 951 1336.