Meet our volunteer readers

 

As schools across the country kick off the new academic year, 80 Penguin Random House colleagues are getting ready to take part in our annual volunteer reading programme in 10 local schools. They’ll each be matched with a child who is struggling with reading and literacy, and spend a lunch time every week working with them.

In the last academic year, Penguin Random House volunteers supported 75 children struggling with their reading and literacy. As an end of year celebration all of the children who participated in our reading programme received a certificate and chose books to keep from a selection of more than 20 titles, with extra copies donated to each school’s library.

To find out more about volunteer reading, we spoke to four of our colleagues about why they're getting involved:

Naa, Learning & Development Partner

Naa, Learning & Development Partner

What’s your favourite children’s book and why?

I loved all Jacqueline Wilson books growing up so it was hard to make a choice. I chose Girls in Love because I remember reading this series at that really awkward, drama-filled age where my parents were just SO embarrassing and all I cared about was listening to the Spice Girls or reading the latest copy of Sugar magazine.

Why is volunteer reading important to you?

As a child I absolutely lived and breathed books, to the point where my mum had to ban them at the dinner table! For me, reading was a way to escape and explore worlds that I’d never dreamed of before. I’d love to help children to do the same as a volunteer reader.

Amy, Ebooks Project Manager

Amy, Ebooks Project Manager

What’s your favourite children’s book and why?

When I was growing up, my favourite children’s book was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I’ve always been very close to my sister, despite our very different personalities, so I loved how the story revolves around a group of sisters with vastly different characters but an incredibly strong bond. My favourite sister was, unsurprisingly, Jo, who I still think is the best fictional heroine of all time. I loved how she rages against the gender constraints of her time, determined to be who she wants to be. She also fuelled my love of reading and writing - although luckily the writing bit only lasted as long as primary school!

Why is volunteer reading important to you?

Volunteer reading is important to me because I find it incredibly worrying that some children leave primary school, and move on to the next stage in their education and lives, without the ability to read. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to take on the challenge of secondary school, with all the new subjects and expectations, while still struggling with your reading. I hope that by giving a bit of my time to volunteer reading I will be helping a child build their confidence in their reading, and also to discover a love of reading for pleasure.

Sarah, Children's Publicity

Sarah, Children's Publicity

What’s your favourite children’s book and why?

When I was in primary school, I wanted nothing more than to be a witch – just like Mildred Hubble in The Worst Witch! I loved anything to do with magic, broomsticks and wands and I was fascinated by the idea of going to school in a castle. My best friend at the time looked like how I imagined Maud – she had blonde pigtails, glasses and was very clever – so every lunch time we used to make up our own Worst Witch stories and act them out in the playground. Luckily our teacher was more like Miss Cackle than Miss Hardbroom, and she let us read the new books in the series in our classroom reading corner whenever they came out. I love that they’re still going today – I’ve read all the most recent ones and happily admit I enjoyed them just as much as I used to!

Why is volunteer reading important to you?

Working in children’s publicity, it’d be easy to believe that ALL kids love reading – after all, we speak to thousands of them every single day! But in reality, there are thousands more who need extra support and encouragement, both with literacy skills and with finding and choosing books they might like. Being a volunteer reader means I get to introduce children to brand new worlds, and help them find their way around – we should never underestimate the fun, comfort and escapism that reading offers. It’s not just about helping with learning - though that’s obviously important too!

Liv, Children's Editor

Liv, Children's Picturebook Editor

What’s your favourite children’s book and why?

Roald Dahl's splendiferous The BFG is my favourite children's book. As a child, it was the book that taught me the magic of reading - I was transported into a wonderful (and sometimes terrifying) world of frobscottle, dream-catching and breakfast with the queen. I still like to imagine that the BFG is out there somewhere, catching golden phizzwizards...

Why is volunteer reading important to you?

For me, reading is one of the greatest pleasures in life, so I would love to help someone who is starting out on their own reading journey and, hopefully, help spark a passion that lasts a lifetime.

Children in Years 2 - 6 visiting their volunteer readers in 80 Strand
Children in years 2 - 6 visiting some of their volunteer readers at TBS in Frating

In July some of our partner schools were invited to visit our offices and warehouses to learn more about what we do and to receive their reading certificates.