Posted in Reading

Why I’m Supporting Read With Me – A Charity Helping Children to Read

children reading in a school library

 

In this week’s post, I’m sharing news of a great cause that I’ve recently discovered called Read With Me.

Whether or not you have children of your own, I’m sure you’ll agree that anything that helps children to become competent and enthusiastic readers can only be a good thing. That’s why I really enjoyed my three years spent working for national children’s reading charity Read for Good.

headshot of Linda Cohen
Linda Cohen, founder of Read With Me

While Read for Good does a great job at a national level by running sponsored Readathons in schools, Read With Me currently operates solely within Gloucestershire and sends adult volunteers into schools to hear children read one-to-one. This individual attention and social interaction makes a vast difference to children’s progress, especially to those who get little or no support at home.

More About Read With Me

Read With Me was founded by Linda Cohen of Wotton-under-Edge,  just a few miles from where I live. As Linda explains on Read With Me’s website, children need to be able to communicate and to read. Without those basic skills their life opportunities are reduced and they face a bleak future.  The inability to read will impact on not only their outcomes but those of their children.

image of adult sharing story with children in park
The joy of reading should start at an early age

Teachers and head teachers agree that the ability to read is the key to all learning.

Children who are unable to read properly by the age of 7 never catch up. In the UK, 1 in 5 children leave primary school unable to read. These children do less well at school, have dramatically reduced employment choices and earning opportunities, and a greater chance of going to prison. The UK has the worst literacy rates in the developed world.

In addition to attending school every day, ideally each child should have 15 minutes of one-to-one time when they can be heard to read by an adult and have verbal and social interaction. But with large class sizes and busy timetables, it’s nigh impossible for teachers to provide this.

Read With Me has therefore developed a unique programme where local employers give employees half an hour twice a week to hear two children read in their schools.

“It’s amazing how something so simple can be utterly transforming,” says Linda.

Linda started by rolling out Read With Me’s service in Gloucester, because it’s an area with a huge need. She will be extending the service across Gloucestershire, but Read With Me will also support anyone outside the area who wanted to set up something similar, even if it was only for their local school.

“We want to create a blueprint which everyone can use,” says Linda.

Outside of term time, Linda also organises The Not So Secret Book Club, offering some fabulous free opportunities for children to meet to read in Gloucester parks, providing free books so necessary when many children don’t have any books of their own at home. They offer a huge selection, from simple board books to teen fiction. They also have craft materials available and inspiration for simple creative projects, and story sessions too.

Why Read With Me is Fundraising Now

Although volunteers donate their time to Read With Me for free, the organisation needs to cover essential running costs. One of the ways Linda planned to raise funds this autumn was by selling Christmas cards, and three local shops had kindly agreed to stock them: Fish Out of Water, The Cotswold Book Room, and The Subscription Rooms in Stroud. Unfortunately, lockdown has temporarily put a stop to that.

In the meantime, young volunteers have set up an online shop to sell the cards, so below I’m sharing more details in case you’d like to support this great cause by placing an order.

About Read With Me’s Christmas Cards

Designer and illustrator Molly Bult created three designs in mixed media of gouache paint and digital collage using scanned materials, which have been printed on quality board with a choice of brown kraft or festive red envelopes. They are sold in packs of 9 for £3.99 each, or £10 for 3.

The Christmas cards are one of two festive initiatives to raise funds for Read With Me. There is also an online shop of stocking-filler toys, generously donated by the new proprietors of The Cotswold Book Room.

group shot of christmas cards

Other Ways to Support Read With Me

  • Buy toys online The Cotswold Book Room generously donated their stock of pocket-money toys to Read With Me, and these are now available to order on its website here: https://readwithme.org.uk/product-category/toy-sale/
  • Volunteer to read with children in school If you’re in Gloucestershire, you can become a Read With Me volunteer, donating just two hours a week to go into a school to hear children read.
  • Donate books Donations of books for children of all ages, from board books to young adult novels are always welcome.
  • Donate craft materials Craft materials and activity books are really useful at Read With Me’s Not So Secret Book Clubs.
  • Help out at the Not So Secret Book Clubs Subject to restrictions, these will next be running on 22nd and 23rd December – announcements will be made on Read With Me’s website, Facebook page and on all the community websites.
  • Help sort books Volunteers are needed to help sort donated books to be sent to schools either to bolster their libraries or to provide children who have no reading material at home a selection of their own books.
  • Share fundraising ideas Linda would love to hear from anyone with creative fundraising ideas to boost Read With Me’s funds.
  • Support on social media “Like” Read With Me’s Facebook page and share their posts with your friends.
  • Make a donation There’s a donate box on the home page (scroll down till you see the yellow banner “Support Us” and its right underneath that.)

If you can help in any of these ways, please contact Linda via the Read With Me website.

Read on if you’d like to find out more about Read With Me via my informal interview with Linda and about the Christmas card designer Molly Bult, who has sent me her bio for anyone interested in her other design work. 

Interview with Linda Cohen

It’s great to be able to sell Christmas cards and stocking filler toys online, but how do fundraise at other times of year?

We are a start-up, so fundraising is in the early stages. We’ve been established as a social enterprise, so the aim is to be relatively self-sufficient, but we’ve received some wonderful help from Gloucestershire Community Foundation. We’ve held a number of virtual events, including the Wotton 10k in which our supporters took part across the world, some even in Hong Kong – a combination of elite runners and some more sedate walkers who punctuated the walk with tea and cake stops.

What will the proceeds from the sales of Christmas cards and toys be used for?

The proceeds from the cards, like all the other money we raise, goes towards the shoestring running costs of delivering our service.

It only costs £50 a year to deliver twice-weekly sessions to each child, but we need to be able to support 500 more places immediately after Christmas.

You mentioned the three shops kindly stocking your cards, and the amazing contribution of stock by The Cotswold Book Room.  Are there any particular local businesses that you’d like to mention as key supporters of the scheme?

Gloucester Services have been amazing. All their profits go back in to the community, so make that a destination stop for petrol! I’ve also set up reading schemes with partner schools for some of my PR clients.

What would Read with Me like from Santa this year?

I think Santa must have been operating throughout the year as we’ve already been the recipients of astonishing generosity from a number of the organisations and individuals, from teenagers to the retired.

The greatest gift would be the ability for our fantastic volunteers to all feel able to go back in to school safely and get on with their work.

However there is nothing to match the gift of a child’s face lighting up when they make a breakthrough or one of our littlest readers rushing to tell you that they’ve started reading at home.

Meet Molly Bult

stylised image of Molly Emilia RoseRead With Me’s Christmas card designer Molly Bult shares her bio.

“Hi! I’m Molly, Manchester based illustrator and print designer behind Molly Emilia Rose. Coming from a printed textiles background, my designs are led by my passion for colour, texture and pattern. I love to create mixed media artwork, marrying both digital and analog techniques. 

“Growing up in the South Wales countryside, my love of art and nature has grown hand in hand. My work is inspired by the biophilic connection we share with nature, a celebration of the abundance and variety of life and colour in the natural world. 

“More recently, I have become fascinated with people, human interaction and relationships which you can see has fed into my portfolio of work – often with elements of humour thrown in!”

 Follow Molly on Instagram at @Mollyemiliarosedesign, on Facebook at @mollyemiliarosedesign and at her Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MollyEmiliaRose.

Thank you for reading this post – I hope it inspires you to help this excellent cause if you can, or to emulate its success in your neighbourhood. Please don’t hesitate to contact Linda for more information.

Author:

English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Staffroom at St Bride's School series, both set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.

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