Off 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: firstname.lastname@example.org