Volunteering to help change children's life stories

31 May 2019
Young Readers Programme children with volunteer

Volunteers are a crucial part of our work here at the National Literacy Trust. 1 – 7 June this year is Volunteers Week, and we’re joining in the annual celebration by giving you a behind-the-scenes look at what our amazing literacy volunteers get up to and the difference their support makes.

From giving out books to sharing interview tips, volunteers make a huge difference to our work and the lives of children, young people and families across the country.

In primary schools

Our Young Readers Programme has been running for over 20 years, and has given over 1.1 million books to over 384,000 children. Support from volunteers has become vital to the success of the programme, with staff members from corporate partners taking part in fun book-gifting events and visiting schools to spread the joy of reading. Organisations including British Land, WHSmith, Goldman Sachs, Penguin Random House and AXIS have all supported the programme through volunteering.

Volunteers can have a massive impact on children and their interest in books. One teacher, whose class visited a British Land shopping centre and met volunteers there, said:

“A huge bonus for me was seeing the engagement of the male site staff at the shopping centre. I was so pleased that they spent time with one child who had refused to take a book at our school events and they then successfully encouraged him to select a book! I firmly believe their enthusiasm for books and positive male role modelling was what made the difference for him.”

In secondary schools

It’s not just primary age children who need support from volunteers! Our Words for Work programme is designed to take volunteers from local businesses into secondary schools, to support students as they begin to think about careers and looking for jobs.

Through the programme, volunteers share their career journey, roleplay workplace scenarios and give top tips for presentations, helping students get ready for interviews and the workplace. Businesses of all sizes have been involved in the programme, from KPMG, Network Rail and Lancôme to smaller local businesses.

One Words for Work volunteer said:

“I thought [volunteering on Words for Work] was a great way to help the literacy skills of young people, particularly their presentation skills. It was very rewarding to make a difference, one that might help them secure a better opportunity in the future.”

In communities

Volunteers are also key to the success of our work in local communities through our Literacy Hubs. We know that local people know their communities and the issues facing them best, so we launched the Literacy Champions initiative in areas including Bradford, Nottingham, Hastings and the North Yorkshire Coast. Literacy Champions are local people empowered to run literacy projects in their communities – from dads’ book groups to local poetry nights to community book swaps.

One Bradford Literacy Champion explains their initiative for getting local children interested in reading at the library:

“I gathered a group of children on the carpet and on chairs and I just started reading. I felt really happy when I saw the kids were enjoying it. These two little girls were sitting and listening to the story very nicely, making eye contact, smiling, answering questions, and copying my actions in the story. I really enjoyed seeing them do that! I’d never done anything like it before… it was my first time ever, in a library, with strangers, using a loud voice and reading the story with all the actions! I also gave out books and the older children promised to read them to their brothers and sisters!”

Get involved

If you’re feeling inspired this Volunteers’ Week, now’s the time to get involved! We have lots of different volunteering opportunities in towns and cities across the country. Could you: