Can You Support A Local Child With Their Reading?

Deadline for new term’s volunteers fast approaching

Portia reads with a Bookmark volunteer

More than one in four children leave primary school every year unable to read to the expected standard and literacy charity Bookmark Reading is on a mission to change that – but needs your help.

Bookmark is currently looking for passionate readers across inner London to spend one hour a week helping a child expand their vocabulary, improve their literacy skills and find enjoyment in reading. These 30-minute sessions are available in the morning or at lunchtime, ensuring that volunteers can visit a school during lunch, on their way to work, or in between other commitments.

The programme will launch in eight inner London boroughs from September, including five schools across Wandsworth. And Bookmark is currently looking to recruit new volunteers this Summer, ready for the academic year.

Kitty Higgins, above, the charity’s CEO, comments: “At Bookmark, we want every child to benefit from the opportunities that literacy presents them throughout their life. For children leaving primary school unable to read to the expected standard, these opportunities are fewer and they often face limited job prospects, poor health and low self-esteem.

"Our volunteers help children develop the reading skills they need early, supporting them to expand their vocabulary, improve their literacy skills and find enjoyment in reading. These are crucial tools to help children succeed both in school and beyond.

"I volunteer with Bookmark – to see a child’s confidence and interest increase as you progress through the programme is incredibly rewarding. It may be that you unlocked a new genre they hadn’t explored before, that they were able to tackle that ‘tricky’ word, or you simply spent some time working at their pace. Your time – just one hour a week – is invaluable in supporting these children.

"With lots of new schools partnering with Bookmark ahead of the new academic year, we need more London-based volunteers to provide support to children in their local community. Please don’t hesitate to contact us or head to the website if you are interested in finding out more.”

The charity points out that low literacy levels can have a huge impact on a child’s confidence and opportunities as well as contributing to cycles of inequality.

Some 700,000 children in London grow up in poverty and are disproportionately affected by low literacy levels. By the age of five, the poorest children in our society typically have language and vocabulary skills 19 months behind their peers.

At this young age a ‘word gap’ develops, and it’s one that teachers believe is widening, according to a comprehensive study by Oxford University Press. On top of this, 70% of children permanently excluded from school lack basic literacy, whilst 40% of prisoners have reading ability so low that they are ineligible for 90% of jobs.

Bookmark’s flexible six-week volunteer programme gives volunteers the chance to help a child in their community develop fundamental reading skills and a love of reading, ensuring all children get a fair start in life. The charity provides interactive online training in bite-sized modules to prepare volunteers for the role in their own time, and also run training sessions throughout July and August.

Since the charity launched in 2018, Bookmark volunteers have already been having a big impact on the children they read with.

Safae, who volunteers at a school in Camden, says: “I used to hate reading as a kid, which is ironic considering that it is now one of my favourite things to do. It has been really great engaging with reluctant readers, as it has reminded me of how far I have come and the transformative impact reading has had on my education. I am excited to be able to give something back by helping kids to develop a keen interest in books.”

If you are interested in volunteering with Bookmark Reading, find out more and apply at


August 2, 2019

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