Taking reading Off The Page

“I learnt about my good qualities and realised how much of a difference the small things make, especially because I cared about being the best person I could be for the young people.” – volunteer at the Book It! Summer School 2014

A small selection of some of the wonderful books sent to Off The Page by Siobhan Dowd Trust
A small selection of some of the wonderful books sent to Off The Page by Siobhan Dowd Trust

Our Off The Page project is getting underway, with our volunteers being trained and inducted into the programme where they’ll be helping us reach hundreds of disadvantaged children across Liverpool with reading. Team Off The Page have been busy making a star appearance on BBC Radio Merseyside (as well as snapping a selfie with Roger Phillips), selecting texts to read – a big thank you to the Siobhan Dowd Trust for sending through a hundred old and new favourites especially for the project! – and planning for their week-long Summer School, which will be coming to Calderstones Mansion House at the end of August. We’re currently looking for a charismatic, entertaining and enthusiastic individual to become our Summer School Leader – if you can think creatively and are passionate about engaging young people with literature and new experiences, you could fit the bill. More information can be found here (deadline for applicants is Thursday 16th July, 9am).

Last year’s Summer School was an amazing experience for the young people involved, with stories being shared, confidence built and friendships made. Many of the young people discovered books they had never heard of or read before, and in many cases found that their enthusiasm for reading grew:

“I’m dyslexic so I don’t often read that much, this has made me more confident because here no one laughs at you when you make a mistake.”

“I’ve finished reading the Diary of a Wimpy Kid – I finished it in three days because I felt more confident. Now my mum gets me a new book every Friday instead of pocket money. I’ll do a lot of reading now.”

Our volunteers working on the Summer School project also rediscovered the power of reading, and how important sharing stories, especially one on one with a child or young person, can be:

“One day one ten year old boy was having a really bad day. He had taken a while to begin to join in with the team but had settled in, and we’d found a series of books he’d liked which we were really pleased about. This one day he was restless and uncooperative. The other assistants and I were worried about him and cared deeply that he was obviously unhappy.

I asked him if he wanted a bit of time out from the group and we sat together and I read Jack and the Baked Beanstalk by Colin Stimpson while he listened. It was young for his age but as we often found, suitable age groupings for books were irrelevant if the story was a good one. He really loved it and I loved being able to give him that time. It was a true shared reading experience and I think we both benefitted from it! I really felt the calming and inspiring power of literature and reading stories. I didn’t need to ask him what was wrong but he visibly relaxed and engaged with the story. He was great at drawing cartoons and when we rejoined the group he sat and drew his own version of the book. We were reading a story out loud at the time and when we were talking about it he joined in, so we knew he’d been listening and enjoying that too. It was such a positive experience, I’ll never forget it.

If we were lucky enough to have had people who took the time to encourage us to read for pleasure when we were young it is easy to take that aspect of childhood for granted. My experience at the Summer Camp enabled me to see that some children’s’ lives are so full of disruption, whether around them or in their thoughts, that that time hasn’t happened. Reading one to one is an opportunity to share peace, and fun, and the wonder of possibility, to give that time that should be every child’s right.”
– Ginni, volunteer at the Book It! Summer School 2014

Of course, a love of reading isn’t just for summer – we’re looking for volunteers who would be able to commit to reading with a young person aged between 11-16 one-on-one for a minimum of six months. You’ll receive full training and support from our Off The Page team, and the rewards you’ll receive from sharing literature and being involved in a young person’s development at such a vital stage are endless.

For more information on volunteering as part of Off The Page, see our website or contact Emma Melling, Off The Page Volunteer Coordinator: emmamelling@thereader.org.uk

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