Get ready for World Read Aloud Day 2016

WRAD 2016 logoBy Robert Lyon, Communications Intern

Reading aloud holds so much value for individuals of all backgrounds and communities and so it is with great excitement that we look forward to World Read Aloud Day. On February 24th 2016 – that’s tomorrow – World Read Aloud Day calls attention to the importance of reading aloud and sharing stories. To read is to understand the thoughts and ideas of others; reading takes you away to another time and place and gives voice to the chaotic emotions of life.

“When reading, I could breathe.” – Former inpatient and Shared Reading group member

To read out loud is to take the words out of a book and bring them to life, making them resonate with readers on a personal and emotional level. World Read Aloud Day does something very special in seeking to encourage everyone to take the time to pick up a book, get reading and connect with themselves and others.

“Normally when I’m reading, I’m thinking about what I’m going to have for my tea! But reading aloud really helps you to concentrate and take it in.” – participant in a Shared Reading session

World Read Aloud Day is organised by LitWorld, a not for profit organisation that aims to promote global literacy and has had a lot of success doing it. With projects in places like the Philippines, Haiti and Africa they seek to give all children the ability to be a reader no matter their social or economic backgrounds. Their work in many ways reflects The Reader’s passion for literature and a desire to use it to help others.

One of our current projects that utilises reading aloud and encouraging it amongst a younger generation is the Off The Page project, commissioned by Liverpool Families Programme at Liverpool City Council.

“With a book it’s not like telly ‘cos it’s your imagination” – Charlie, 12 years old

Our Off The Page team are training volunteers to read one to one with 8 to 16 year olds for an hour a week, wherever possible in their own homes, taking a love of literature to disadvantaged young people across Liverpool. As well as reading one to one the project also hosts Family Fun days where Shared Reading is enjoyed with not only the children but the adults in their lives – be they parents, foster parents or workers. You can find out more about volunteering with Off The Page on our website.

Our new read-aloud anthology A Little, Aloud with Love - perfect to celebrate World Read Aloud Day!
Our new read-aloud anthology A Little, Aloud with Love – perfect to celebrate World Read Aloud Day!

Want to try reading aloud yourself? Here are some of our top tips for reading aloud from our dedicated Group Leaders:

  • Read silently to yourself first to familiarise yourself to the text
  • Practice reading aloud a couple of times to familiarise yourself with how you speak the text
  • Make eye contact with your audience every now and then
  • Mark your place with a finger so you don’t get lost!

Now have a go! Here’s something from our new anthology A Little, Aloud with Love to sink your teeth into and get reading aloud. Why not share the love of reading aloud with someone close this World Read Aloud Day?

To A Stranger

Passing stranger! you do not know
How longingly I look upon you,
You must be he I was seeking,
Or she I was seeking,
(it comes to me, as of a dream,)

I have somewhere surely
Lived a life of joy with you,
All is recall’d as we flit by each other,
Fluid, affectionate, chaste, matured,

You grew up with me,
Were a boy with me or a girl with me,
I ate with you, and slept with you—your body has become
Not yours only, nor left my body mine only.

You give me the pleasure of your eyes,
Face, flesh, as we pass—you take of my beard, breast, hands,
In return,

I am not to speak to you—I am to think of you
When I sit alone, or wake at night alone,
I am to wait—I do not doubt I am to meet you again,
I am to see to it that I do not lose you.

Walt Whitman

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

Our Top 5 tips for reading with young people and teenagers

Emma and Colette joining Roger Phillips for a studio selfie at BBC Radio Merseyside!
Emma and Colette joining Roger Phillips for a studio selfie at BBC Radio Merseyside!

This afternoon to celebrate Volunteers Week, Emma Melling and Colette Greggs took to the airwaves with BBC Radio Merseyside’s Roger Phillips to spread the word about Off The Page, our biggest volunteer recruitment initiative to date.

We’re looking for volunteers who want to make a difference in the lives of disadvantaged children (aged from 11 to 16 years old) across Liverpool through one-to-one shared reading experiences. Not only will the project directly engage the children themselves with a love of reading for pleasure, but will also extend to the adults in their lives – be they parents, carers, family support workers, community staff and volunteers.

Think you might be up for this rewarding challenge? Emma and Colette tell us their top 5 tips for reading with this age group:

  1. Be passionate: make the story come alive! This can only happen if you care about what you’re reading. What books, poems or stories do you wish you could help a young person discover for the first time?
  2. Be patient: volunteers need to commit to reading an hour a week with a young person, for six months minimum. It may take weeks for a young person to overcome an initial resistance to reading. Enjoy the journey you take together – both of you may learn a lot from each other.
  1. Be flexible: something going down less well than you’d hoped? Don’t take it to heart. It may be that your young person isn’t ready to take on your suggested reads, or maybe they’re just not interested in that kind of thing. Be prepared to have options at the ready and don’t be afraid to change course if necessary – it’s all progress!
  1. Be bold: don’t be afraid to introduce new, sometimes darker material, particularly with older teenagers who may show greater engagement if they encounter literature that resonates with young adult issues and preoccupations. Always be sensitive to individual needs however!
  2. Be a role model: set an example, and not just when it comes to reading. You’re in a privileged position at a formative stage in a young person’s life. Afterwards, they should be remembering you as a positive influence – maybe you’ve even made a difference to the course of their future.

For more details of how to volunteer, please contact Celia Jordan, our Off The Page Project Manager, on celiajordan@thereader.org.uk or 07812 238 395 – or come along to our Summer Fair on Saturday 6th June at Calderstones Mansion House.

Off the Page: Reading with Liverpool Families

042Off the Page is our new Liverpool Families project, which aims to improve the lives of disadvantaged children across the city through shared reading. Working with the Liverpool Families Programme, over the course of three years we aim to reach 500 disadvantaged children through regular one-on-one sessions led by volunteers.

Not only will the project directly engage the children themselves with a love for reading for pleasure, in some cases revisited and others for the first time, but will also extend to the adults in their lives – be they parents, carers, family support workers. community staff or volunteers, meaning that reading experiences are more likely to continue.

During the project, 40 of the most disadvantaged children will come together for an extraordinary week-long ‘Book It!’ reading experience at Calderstones Mansion House. This fun reading space will allow the children to make friends, form a positive relationship with reading and one another and relax in the calm, inspiring environment of Calderstones Park. ‘Book It!’ ran for the first time last year, and was part of our drive for knowing that many more children could benefit greatly from the unique experience it provided.

Emma Melling, one of our Off the Page Coordinators, tells us more:

It’s often an exciting time at The Reader – in a staff team that’s almost doubled since I arrived in 2013, there’s always a new face to greet at the Monday yoga class or a new cake to try amongst the friendly chatter in the staff kitchen. I was recently brought on to the new Liverpool Families project Off the Page and can’t describe the feeling of excitement that came with the realisation we’d be working with some of Liverpool’s most worthy recipients of our magical potion – shared reading.

In one way or another I’ve been working with disadvantaged teenagers for over a decade. Of all my experiences though, a project with Looked After Children last summer stood out. We spent a fortnight reading out loud with children who didn’t see themselves as readers, who weren’t used to being around fun adults and had to relearn a sense of play. The results were profound. One child from the Book It! Summer School was waking up at 5 to read Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Another chose to read after several clear ‘no’s when asked. A third came out of her shell, speaking more frequently and more loudly. The 20 or so children were grouped into teams of animals, and I was a fellow member of the Wolf team. As the days progressed, all the boys from the Wolves showed pleasant surprise at being praised, then pushed themselves to be praised again. By the end, through their own volition, every Wolf read. There was a willingness by all children on the last day to take home books we’d recommended to them specifically. A real trust had been built.

Thankfully some key decision makers heard about the magic and came to see it for themselves. They have gone on to develop Off the Page which, if we are successful, will reach over 500 of Liverpool’s children over the next three years. So if like me, you want to sip at the magic potion and share your passion for reading, get in touch!

We’re currently looking for volunteers to make weekly visits to a child (aged 11-16) either in their own home, foster home or community setting to read aloud and discuss literature with them. Volunteer positions will last for a minimum of six months for one hour at the same time each week, and are set across four areas within Liverpool – Kensington, Everton, Toxteth or Walton.

More information about the project and specific volunteer roles can be found on our website: http://www.thereader.org.uk/working-with-us/volunteering/off-the-page

If you think you could take part, please get in touch with Celia Jordan, Off the Page Volunteer Manager: celiajordan@thereader.org.uk