EMPLOYERS are urged to let their staff take part in a scheme that's improving reading skills across Tameside and add social value to their business.
Tameside Council initiated Reading Volunteers – which is part of the wider Tameside Loves Reading campaign – with a pilot last October, providing volunteers to read with pupils at six primary schools in disadvantaged areas.
Data showed that one pupil improved his reading ability by two years in just ten weeks while parents and volunteers spoke about seeing improvements.
The scheme has continued into the spring term with several businesses, including Ingeus, Inspire 2 Independence (i2i), Jobcentre Plus, Village Hotels and NSL, releasing staff to volunteer and five more schools involved.
Now more businesses are urged to do the same for the summer term to help boost reading ability across the borough, which can be hugely beneficial to children's development and academic achievements. Male volunteers in particular are needed to provide positive male role models.
Employers with a social value, corporate social responsibility or volunteering policy are asked to spread the word to staff and those that don't have such policies are encouraged to create them so that staff can take part.
Volunteers are placed with pupils from Early Years through to Year 6 and spend an hour a week for ten weeks working with two pupils on a one-to-one basis. The aim is to encourage reading for pleasure and increase reading ability.
It's part of the Tameside Loves Reading campaign, a three year programme of projects and activities in schools, libraries and the community to help improve reading and literacy skills in children and young people, helping them to be successful in their learning and in life. It includes giving a free book to every baby born at Tameside Hospital.
Tameside Council Chief Executive Steven Pleasant has been volunteering at Gorse Hall Primary School.
He said: "I've really enjoyed the experience and it's wonderful to know you're making a big difference in a child's life and their future achievements. I'd recommend taking part in this fantastic initiative, which is improving reading abilities across Tameside."
Councillor Leanne Feeley, Executive Member for Lifelong Learning, said: "Some children don't have the opportunity to read with an adult outside of school. Our pilot study showed that by being given one-to-one time with an adult once a week to read, talk and play literacy related games, there was a massive increase in reading ability and a real increase in reading for pleasure. Both of these outcomes have a lifelong impact.
"I'd urge businesses to encourage their staff to take part. For just one hour a week, volunteers can make a huge difference to a child's language, vocabulary and literacy skills."
The programme was developed and co-ordinated by the council's Employment and Skills team in partnership with School Improvement, Libraries and Workforce Development.
A training session for volunteers is being organised for early April with placements beginning from the week commencing April 22.
For more information on the Tameside Loves Reading campaign, including hints and hacks for parents, see www.tameside.gov.uk/tamesidelovesreading