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Our staff have been volunteering their time to support children in local schools

2nd March 2023

A group of Solent University, Southampton staff have been volunteering their time to support learners at St Johns Primary & Nursery School with their literacy development.

Ready Readers is one of the University’s staff volunteering initiatives that is helping raise the attainment of local children.

For an hour a week over a six-week period, volunteer Book Buddies have been going back to school and reading with children keen to improve their literacy skills.

Brittany Everett, Year 5 and 6 Cohort Leader at St Johns Primary & Nursery School said, “'It has been wonderful to see our Year 5 children working with members of Solent University. The children are always excited for their ready reader sessions and talk enthusiastically about the books they are reading with their Buddies. The children relished the opportunity of choosing their own books and were excited to read them in sessions and at home. The scheme has really supported our children to develop a love for reading.'

The children taking part have really enjoyed the experience with one child saying, “It's been nice talking with the reading Buddies whilst reading. I have been able to talk about my life and interests.”

Parents have noticed a real difference too, with one saying, “My son has enjoyed it massively. It has encouraged him to read at home; he now reads every night before bed. He is excited about the weekly sessions he has with his Buddy.”

The Solent volunteers have gained a lot from the initiative too. Emma Hebbes, Admissions and Enrolment Officer at the University says, “The thing I’ve enjoyed most about being a Book Buddy is being transported back to the magic of seeing the world through a child’s eyes and the excitement that can come through reading a book. I’ve enjoyed seeing them both overcome tricky words and try reading new things that they were worried about reading before. I’ve watched them both grow more comfortable with asking for help with what words mean and seen their creativity flow when asked what they think will happen next.”

To celebrate the achievements of the children taking part, they were presented with a certificate and a book voucher at a special assembly attended by staff, children and their Book Buddies.

Simone Simmons, Senior Access and Widening Participation Officer at the University helped co-ordinate the initiative, she says: “As part of Solent's commitment to widening participation and raising the attainment of local children, we are really pleased our Ready Readers Programme has had such a positive impact.

“When we first developed the programme we were inundated with offers of support from Solent colleagues who jumped at the chance to volunteer and support the literacy development of children attending schools on the university’s doorstep. We are really proud of Ready Readers and the children and adults who took part - so much so that we plan to roll this initiative out to other schools across the city in 2024.”