Volunteers’ Week: John’s Reader Story

The second in our series of Reader Stories for Volunteers’ Week comes from John who first found Shared Reading while recovering from addiction.

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Volunteers’ Week – Helen’s Reader Story

We kick start Volunteers’ Week with a powerful Reader Story from one of our volunteer Reader Leaders.

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The Big Give: Helping people like Betty

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Ahead of the Big Give Christmas Challenge we visited Betty and her Reader Volunteer Julie to find out what Shared Reading can mean to the older people we want to help this Christmas.

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Get Involved: International Day of Charity

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Today is the UN’s International Day of Charity, a day to celebrate the organisations and individuals who help to create real social bonds and inclusive, more resilient societies.

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Volunteer with The Reader in Cheshire East

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We’re currently recruiting volunteers in Cheshire East – if you’re interested in delivering a regular Shared Reading session find out how you can get involved.

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A Year at Calderstones

House-109It’s been over a year since we signed the lease on Calderstones Mansion, making it ours for 125 years, and we were able to celebrate how far we’ve come in the past year at our AGM earlier this month. Throughout the evening, the Mansion fulfilled its purpose of being a home to our group members – some of whom had never visited our home at Calderstones before – who enjoyed good food courtesy of The Reader Cafe and Ice Cream Parlour as well as the atmosphere inside.

At present, nine of our weekly reading groups take place at the Mansion with new groups planned for the future – two of which are starting up in November, giving even more opportunity to visit. It’s not only our regular readers who are finding a home for themselves – our volunteering programme is expanding its reach, taking on a team of volunteers of all ages and walks of life to model how our community at Calderstones will work in future, and special visitors such as young people from the City of Readers summer school have already shown the potential of the Mansion as a place to make magic happen.

ReadingGroup-15And the process has already begun…since the signing of the lease in September 2014, we’ve been able to record some figures on how the Mansion is coming back to life. In just one year, we have:

  • shared reading with 20,553 people – an average of 395 each week
  • welcomed 4,600 people through the doors for a programme of public literary events
  • displayed 44 exhibitions from local artists and organisations at The Reader Gallery
  • employed an additional 35 paid members of staff to our enterprises at Calderstones

For more astounding figures from our base at Calderstones, as well as to get a closer view of what’s happening within the walls of the Mansion, head over to the Calderstones Mansion blog.

Here’s to the future, which we already got a glimpse into by touring the forthcoming Storybarn

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

Volunteers Week: Volunteering at Calderstones Mansion

Calderstones Mansion House c Dave JonesSince we set up home in Calderstones Mansion House, there’s been lots for us to do – not only in running shared reading groups and a range of activities for the local community, but also get a thriving cafe up and running, hold a series of seasonal events from summer fairs to Christmas grottos and make sure that the Mansion is a warm and welcoming place to be, with its doors wide open (Monday-Friday as well as the occasional weekend).

It’s been no easy feat, and our volunteers at Calderstones have helped every step of the way, taking on a variety of roles that go beyond what we usually do – although rest assured, reading will always get in one way or another…

Our Calderstones Volunteer Manager Gillian Moore introduces us to three of our ever-growing team:

Janet

Janet joined us at Calderstones earlier this year and covers one shift every Thursday between 9:00/12:30 on Reception at the Mansion House. Janet had been going to the Penny Readings every year for some time and had promised herself that she’d find out more about The Reader Organisation and shared reading. Although she didn’t ever get round to that, she followed up an advert for volunteering opportunities with the Merseyside Volunteer Reader Scheme. Janet recognised that she wasn’t in a position to commit the time the project was going to require of her and, luckily for us at Calderstones, accepted the suggestion that there was likely to be an alternative role (and therefore time commitment) at the Mansion House.

Janet’s pleased to have found Calderstones and feels it was a better decision for her because her volunteering activity here fits much better around her existing commitments. She loves the building and the park environment and is a real people person so values the opportunity to interact with everybody visiting the Mansion House. Her responsibilities as a Volunteer Reception Assistant are to meet and greet, answer the phone, direct callers, email messages to staff, show people to rooms and (she’s being very hard on herself here) turn on the computer, forget the password and have to phone for help!

The best things about the role have been:

  • Meeting new people
  • Finding and reconnecting with people
  • Getting to know what’s happening
  • Being kept on her toes!

Janet’s advice to anybody thinking of volunteering with TRO would be:

  • There’s so much to gain
  • It beats sitting at home and watching daytime TV
  • Meet new people
  • It’ll broaden your outlook
  • There’s a big world out there if you’re prepared to make the effort
  • It’s worthwhile and rewarding

Since joining volunteering  Janet has reread Heidi by Johanna Spyri – she remembers it as book she loved as a child!

Amanda

Amanda’s also a Volunteer Reception Assistant since October/November 2014 , having seen the role description on The Reader Organisation’s website when she was looking for childrens’ activities here. She liked the sound of the role as well as the location being close enough to school to pick up her son at the end of his day. Amanda covers Reception on Monday and Wednesday between 12:30/2:30pm. She looks after and tidies Reception so that it creates a welcome for everybody, she greets visitors, answers the phone and passes on messages to members of staff. She’s also really good at liaising with other Volunteer Reception Assistants when there have been gaps in the rota!

Amanda enjoys the role and especially appreciates meeting new people. She’d say to anyone thinking of volunteering with The Reader at Calderstones, ‘Do it! You’d really like it. It’s a lovely place to work’, and the best book she’s read since beginning to volunteer is The Big Monster’s Night Out (to Harry aged 3!)

A

A came to volunteering here at Calderstones through the Volunteer Centre and was looking to build on skills gained previously through college courses in catering. At that point, about 12 months ago, A had never heard of The Reader but came in to find out more about volunteering in The Reader Café, liked what he was hearing about the opportunities there’d be for skills and confidence development and decided initially to offer one day of his time to the café team. Since then, A has increased his offer of time to three days a week! A likes supporting front of house, making coffee and other hot drinks, taking orders and payments, as well as taking turn about at the sink and clearing tables.

A likes that as a volunteer he doesn’t need to take on as much responsibility as a paid member of the team – it provides him with greater freedom. He’s definitely learned some new skills and in becoming more aware of the ways in which other people within the café team pay attention to their health and wellbeing he’s felt inspired to take more control of his own and has become much fitter as a result.

The best things about volunteering for A are:

  • It keeps him busy
  • He meets new people
  • It’s been a new and positive experience
  • He’s accountable but without the same pressure as paid staff

The best thing A’s read since he’s been volunteering is a short story called Powder by Tobias Woolf which he read in one of our shared reading groups.

If you’d like to know more about volunteering at Calderstones, see our website or contact gillianmoore@thereader.org.uk