How volunteering with the National Literacy Trust made me even prouder to work for Penguin Random House

Teachers and volunteers including Libby Volke (far right) discuss the impact of the scheme

Teachers and volunteers including Libby Volke (far right) discuss the impact of the scheme. Photo Credit: National Literacy Trust

In the UK one child in five today leaves primary school without the reading and writing skills needed for secondary school. Early Words Together is a programme run by the National Literacy Trust that helps families with a child showing early signs of low literacy to turn things round through developing a shared love of stories, songs, drawing and other forms of self-expression that are major building blocks on the road to literacy.

Penguin Random House provides books and volunteers for Early Words Together. I work for Penguin Random House Children’s department and was lucky enough to volunteer for Early Words Together at a school in Tower Hamlets. Every Tuesday morning for six weeks I took part in activities with the same mum and her five-year-old son, with the expert support of two teachers, and alongside five other families working with their own volunteers. The focus is on having fun and learning by stealth.

It felt strange when I belted out ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ for the first time since I was five myself - but I soon got used to it and Tuesday mornings became the highlight of my week. It’s fun to be rolling out play dough, dressing up, and being silly when normally you’d be at your desk sending emails.

It was wonderful to see the changes in the way my family approached the activities over the six weeks. At first the little boy I was working with just wanted to play and his mum just wanted him to read. By the final week, they didn’t need my input – they were having too much fun focusing on the activities together. Early Words Together works because it’s based on fun things parents can to do at home, so the benefits carry on long after the six sessions are over.

Like everyone who works in publishing, I’m passionate about books and reading, so I’m very grateful to Penguin Random House for giving me the opportunity to be part of such an amazing programme, and I’m proud that our Creative Responsibility partnerships have the potential to open doors for the next generation and their imaginations.

Libby Volke is a copy-editor for Penguin Random House Children’s. She is one of 37 Penguin Random House and Pearson volunteers taking part in the Early Words Together pilot across Harlow and Tower Hamlets. 

Families supported by Early Words Together take part in a celebratory story-telling event

Families supported by Early Words Together take part in a celebratory story-telling event. Photo Credit: National Literacy Trust

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