Reading with Looked After Children in Wirral: Pudsey approved!

Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels...
Say hello to a certain someone our Wirral team discovered on their travels…

BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal takes place this Friday, so there’s no need to be alarmed if you spot a sudden surge of fluffy yellow bear ear-wearing individuals. Just last week, we happened to come across a VIB (very special Bear) at MediaCityUK…

Earlier this year, we were awarded a grant from Children in Need to fund our project reading with Looked After Children in Wirral. Our previous work with Looked After Children across Merseyside has shown how reading for pleasure can bring a variety of benefits, not least in creating a safe environment in which young people can engage with literature that relates to them.

“I love this, I want it to go on forever” – a Looked After Child reading with us as part of our pilot project

By reading one-on-one with a project worker or volunteer in a familiar setting, children are able to expand their imaginations and discover new possibilities. Not only does our shared reading approach encourage a love for reading for the sheer fun of doing so, but also allows young people to reflect on the experiences of the characters they encounter, stimulating a greater sense of empathy and understanding.  Making children excited about books in their own space often gives the incentive of wanting to read more, and so we’ve found that confidence with literacy increases, as does general self-esteem.

For some children, reading can offer a support unavailable elsewhere – a way of getting to grips with their emotions and providing a safe domain through which their voice can be heard, and in some cases found. The connection between reading and wellbeing allows for a retreat from the stresses of everyday life and an escape into another world. This was true for Liam, who took part in one of our previous projects:

“The support of reading together was apparent another week, when Liam looked like he’d been crying and his carer said he had not had a good day in school. He did not want to talk to me about it, but he did feel like reading. We got absorbed in the story together, and by the end he looked much happier. I asked him if he felt better than before the session and he said he did, which was very rewarding.”

Over the next three years, we’ll be able to create more of these reading experiences for over 100 young people aged between 5-15 on the Wirral thanks to the funding received by Children in Need. We’ve already started to recruit volunteers who will be matched with a child for one-to-one reading sessions in foster and care homes. After six months, young people will be able to continue by taking part in group sessions with their peers, encouraging friendships to be formed as well as their love of reading to grow.

For more information about our Wirral Looked After Children project, see our website or contact Charlie Kelly, Looked After Children Volunteer Coordinator: charliekelly@thereader.org.uk

Read more of our Reader Stories from Looked After Children in some of our previous projects:

W’s Reader Story
P’s Reader Story

The Big Give Christmas Challenge: Double your donations to TRO


Donate Online

The Big Give Christmas Challenge continues today – any size donation you give to The Reader Organisation online through The Big Give website has the chance of being doubled by match funding from one of our supporters, The Garfield Weston Foundation. This means that £1 will turn into £2, £10 into £20 and £100 into £200…and as every £1 that is invested into Get Into Reading generates £6.47 worth of social value in return (SROI study, 2013), this could make a huge difference to the lives of hundreds of people across communities in the UK.

We’re looking to raise £20,000 to appoint a new Project Worker who will share reading with people who are in most need of the benefits great literature can bring, including looked-after-children in foster care. Our Young People’s Project Workers work each week reading one-on-one with looked-after-children, focusing on reading for pleasure. Through regular reading, young people are engaged with great literature, building their imagination as well as developing their personal confidence, self-esteem and relationships with peers through reading.

Many of the looked-after-children we read with have continued to develop their love of reading after they have left care, and have been involved with special events including an A Little, Aloud for Children party and most recently, a special project filled with reading and activities at Calderstones Mansion House.

“I forget about everything putting pressure on me and go into the book.” – looked after-child reading with TRO

“It’s not like anything I’ve ever read, it’s the best story I’ve ever readreading the stories makes me wonder how other people feel and want to help them. They make me care about people.” – looked-after child reading with TRO 

Read P’s Reader Story on our website to discover more about the real difference shared reading can make to a looked-after-child’s life.

Your donations could help us grow the reading revolution and reach even more of these young people through shared reading. Click the ‘Donate Online Now’ button on our profile on The Big Give website or click here to donate directly as close as possible to 10am today to increase our chance of match funding.

The Big Give Christmas Challenge: How your donations will help

The-Big-Give-Christmas-Challenge-2013The Reader Organisation is part of The Big Give Christmas Challenge 2013. From today, 5th December to Saturday 7th September, if you donate to TRO through our profile on The Big Give website there’s the chance that the donation will be doubled by match funding from The Garfield Weston Foundation. Donate online by clicking the ‘Donate Online Now’ button as close as possible to 10am today, Friday and Saturday to increase the chance of your donation being doubled, helping us to reach more people through shared reading.

The money we hope to raise via The Big Give Christmas Challenge will be used to appoint a new Project Worker who will share reading with some of the most vulnerable people in society. On a weekly basis we reach groups who are in need of the comfort, companionship and much more that great literature provides, including people at risk of or experiencing social isolation, looked-after children in foster care and those living with dementia.

Our evaluation statistics show the difference shared reading is making to these groups:

  • 86% of readers in dementia care home settings were reported to be less agitated and had improved mood following shared reading sessions
  • 100% of the looked-after children we read with one-to-one told us they enjoyed reading books they wouldn’t have chosen themselves, and that they enjoyed discussing their ideas and opinions

dementia£20,000 will allow us to employ a Project Worker who will work with 200 vulnerable people, extending the positive effects of shared reading and making a huge difference to many lives.

Here is just one example of the people we read with on a daily basis – your donations could help us to bring more of these stories to life:

Matthew has early on-set dementia and is much younger than most of the other patients on the ward. He rarely interacts with the other people and appears quite isolated and depressed, talking only in monosyllables and taking a long time to respond to questions. His speech seems slow and impaired: he struggles not only to find words to be able to express himself but also to find the will or desire to make such acts of communication in the first place.

I noticed during a session that centred upon an extract about summer-time from Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie that Matthew seemed to be looking about him more than usual and to be listening attentively to what was being discussed by the other group- members. I asked him what he’d like to eat during a hot day in summer. He replied in a single word – ‘Fruit’. I asked him what kind of fruit. He said ‘Apples, oranges.’ This response was quite a breakthrough for Matthew.

On that basis I risked asking him if he’d like to re-read a poem I’d just read to the group.At the end of his reading I thanked Matthew for reading and remarked that he had a wonderful reading voice. He smiled and said, ‘Thank you for saying so.’ The group moved on to talk a bit about the poem, but at the end of the session I came back to Matthew and asked him if he had enjoyed the session. Once again he took several moments to respond and then answer, reverting somewhat to his slower voice but this time managing to articulate himself in full. He said, ‘Yeah. It was elevating.’”

Another one of our readers said: “You have given me my youth back”

Any size donation you can give would be hugely appreciated to help us continue making these moments happen. As there are limited funds available as part of The Big Give Challenge, be sure to donate as near as possible to 10am for the chance of your donation being doubled by match funding. Click the ‘Donate Online Now’ button on our Big Give profile or click here go directly to the donation form.