This article has been updated from June 2023
When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, children across the world were suddenly without access to education in the way many had been used to. Classes and resources went online. Educators faced a new challenge in how to help children develop the communication skills they needed upon return to normal life. Parents were suddenly faced with the challenge of helping to educate their children at home.
One such child was Taliah who was just four years old and learning to talk when the UK went into lockdown in March 2020. Her mum, Simone, knew she had to act quickly to help her little girl with her learning. Simone had been volunteering with the National Literacy Trust since 2019 and saw an opportunity to use her skills and volunteering to not only help Taliah at this difficult time but also help other parents and children through the pandemic.
To mark our 30th year, we have gathered stories to celebrate the many ways that lives have been changed by three decades of the National Literacy Trust. Hear from Simone and her daughter Taliah as they share how being a Literacy Champion has not only helped them but has impacted hundreds of families in their local area too.
Literacy and volunteering in Lockdown
For four years, little Taliah and her mum Simone regularly greeted families' screens with story time videos to keep them entertained during lockdown. They role-modelled storytelling to support family literacy skills and learning at home.
Although Taliah and Simone’s journey started out as a way to support each other during lockdown, their initiative and dedication helped thousands of families across Bradford become more equipped with tips and tactics for developing children's literacy skills. Simone attributes the changes she's seen in her daughter, like Taliah's increasingly curious and outgoing personality, to the time they spent volunteering together.
The online story time sessions were just the beginning for Simone and Taliah's power-house volunteering partnership!
“Volunteering has really given Taliah a sense of responsibility and confidence. She’s now engaging with new activities at home, in the community and on the Bradford Stories Bus."
“Taliah wants to be a world leader, she’s concerned about conflicts in Yemen, poverty in her local community, and how she wants to create more peace and prosperity. When she’s handing out books, she genuinely gets a sense of joy from that.”Simone, Taliah's mum
Now eight-year-old Taliah has gone on to be recognised for her reading fluency and comprehension in class and her desire to drive change has earned her a place on the school council.
Taliah recently attended an event on the Bradford Stories Bus with author Harry Heap, and Simone was bursting with pride, “To see how Taliah participates and volunteers to answer questions is amazing. She’s not afraid to step into a spotlight and she’s built those muscles to put herself out there."
“I feel like Taliah’s engagement in the community and with the National Literacy Trust in Bradford has kept a particular sense of engagement in her learning. It has been instrumental in the development of her leadership and social skills, as well as her self-confidence during and after the pandemic.”
Through her love of books, Taliah has discovered mindfulness and the power of reading for promoting wellbeing. She is more equipped to look after her own happiness by reading and making choices about what she is reading. Simone can see that Taliah is now choosing books to read which have a "grounding" effect and give her the ability to "identify her emotions, manage and control them".
What is it like to volunteer with your child?
Our 2022 research which explores the influence of role models on children and young people's reading showed that the most popular role models were mums (67.4%) and dads (60.2%). Not only was Simone modelling to her daughter by bringing her into the volunteering experience, she was also empowering hundreds of parents with the skills and confidence they needed to equip and inspire their children. Volunteering with your child can also help to create a special bond through shared interests, experiences and collaboration.
Simone shared that she found great value in championing literacy alongside Taliah:
“We love being together! Being a Literacy Champion has added a beautiful dynamic to our relationship. Taliah knows that what we do has a purpose that’s beyond just us. Our videos and activities go out into the community and the world. In this sense, it helps her to connect to a bigger picture and the National Literacy Trust in Bradford is a great vehicle for that.”
Be part of changing life stories too
Our wonderful Literacy Champions are an army of supported volunteers who work alongside local teams in the communities where low levels of literacy are seriously impacting people’s lives. Literacy Champion volunteers live or work in the heart of their communities and understand the unique challenges and opportunities of their area. This makes them trusted local voices and best placed to bring people together to make real and localised change.
National lockdowns and partial school closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic meant many children missed several months of school, and many families spent more time at home over 2020 and 2021. This disruption to education is likely to leave a long legacy. By donating to the National Literacy Trust, you can help us provide support, resources, and advice for teachers and parents to help limit the impact of COVID-19 on the UK’s literacy levels.