Civil and Public Servants in Bristol have been supporting Ablaze to provide reading buddies at local primary schools.
One school is St Weburgh's Primary, located at the bottom of the M32. The school is a popular inner city primary school that is at the heart of the local community. The school reflects the wide range of cultures present in the community and has a vibrant and inclusive feel. Reading buddies go in for an hour each week and make a significant contribution to reading performance and the confidence of the young people they interact with.
Garry Packer, Highways England
I have been involved in Ablaze’s reading buddies scheme as a volunteer at St Werburgh’s Primary School since 2012. I have enjoyed supporting up to 6 children each week with their reading and communication skills. Personally, I have enjoyed the experience of working with primary children, providing encouragement and feedback to help them develop their confidence and reading skills. It is great to be able to give something back to the local community. It is also great to get out of the office once a week and recharge.
Professionally, I have found it hard to juggle the weekly commitment sometimes with work deadlines. The experience has both challenged and developed my time management skills. It has made me think about how to give constructive and positive feedback, as positive encouragement is so important whatever your age.
Claire Herdman, DEFRA
I joined the scheme in September 2016 and in all honestly I have not looked back since. I have been able to follow my 4 reading buddies up a school year – and as such, I have really noticed not just great improvements in their reading and comprehension skills but also in terms of their personal development – their self- esteem is that much greater and they are able to converse far more fluidly and confidently. It is not just about encouraging them to read – my buddies often repeat back to me snippets of advice and praise I have offered in the past, so it’s very telling how much you can influence and help develop a young person. I have a close bond to my four buddies and reading with them is the highlight of the week, particularly when work has been pressured with lots of competing deadlines. Making the effort when it would often be so much easier to cancel brings with it huge rewards and allows me to take a break from the grindstone at the same time.
I cannot praise the school or the scheme highly enough – buddying is something that brings a great sense of achievement and is something I will continue indefinitely.
Susan Fischer, DVSA
I have been a reading buddy at St Werburgh’s Primary School since 2011 and it’s been the highlight of my week ever since. I have read with a range of year groups over my time at the school; this year I am reading with Reception. As it is the children’s first experience of school, I have found it particularly rewarding to support them in their reading and in developing their personal skills. It is lovely to build relationships with the children and see how they progress throughout the year, too. I don’t have children of my own, so sometimes it is hard to know whether I am supporting the children in the right way, but I am always told by the teachers that just spending time with the children, encouraging them to read, is the most important thing. It is sometimes hard to plan your work commitments around school too, so I either try to change my day or cancel if I have meetings or am particularly busy. The school are flexible and are just grateful for any time we can give.
I think being a reading buddy has enriched my life; giving one hour of my week to support children that might not get that at home, or just need a little more encouragement, in the hope that it might help them to have a brighter future, is time well spent.
60% of schools completed Ablaze’s 2016-17 annual reading buddy evaluation. From that data they are happy to report that:-
• 91% of children say they will read more now
• 96% are reading with more confidence
• 5% did not improve their reading level
• 19% improved by 1 reading level
• 26% improved by 2 reading levels
• 18% improved by 3 reading levels
• 7% improved by 4 reading levels
• 26% improved by 5 or more reading levels
If you are interested in becoming a reading buddy at St Werburgh’s contact Garry Packer at Highways England.