Transforming Children’s Futures: Four Years of Read With Me 

It’s been four years since our first volunteers went into Grange Primary Academy in Gloucester to hear children read.

Since then, we’ve been through Covid and a cost-of-living crisis and our numbers have grown to more than 50 schools and over 300 volunteers and we’ve helped more than 10,000 children learn to read.

The schools’ crisis is acute. Schools have continued to respond to the need to provide social care as well as education, there has also been a breakdown in the contract between parents and schools which has affected attendance.  You will all have read headlines which do nothing to dispel fears about children’s mental health, too.

However, there is good news.  Time spent one-to-one with a reading volunteer can have a transformative effect, not only giving children the first building blocks to achieve their potential but also the opportunity to chat, laugh and offload concerns to a trusted adult.

We’ve also seen how children benefit from our outdoor Not-So-Secret Book Clubs, held every holiday, which provide storytelling and creative opportunities, treasure hunts, crafts and, of course, free books.

There is too much talk of budgets and sophisticated approaches to solving problems and not enough emphasis on simple focussed engagement with the child, harnessing the power of a good book, conversation and someone taking a real interest in them.

We’ve managed to create provision that costs only 30p per child per week with a measurable and immediate return on investment.

We have recently added to our offer and now have projects for Year 7 and 8 children (aged 11 and 12 years) who have a reading age of less than 8 years. You can imagine the challenges of arriving at secondary school unable to take a part in the curriculum, already feeling at a huge disadvantage.

We ran a pilot with volunteers hearing this group read in registration periods four mornings a week.  In just one term, every pupil’s reading age had improved by two years.

There is so much realistic hope that we can break the cycles of poor literacy, exclusion from school, unemployment and often prison and give every child the life chances and real future they deserve.

This does mean we need more volunteers to build on the amazing work that is being delivered by our team every day in schools across Gloucestershire. We also need the funds to administer the checks, training and deployment which allows our work to run seamlessly and without impact on schools, freeing them up to focus on the curriculum, knowing that their children are being heard to read every week.

We have a waiting list of schools and an urgent need to scale up the services we provide.

If you would like to volunteer, can make a donation or help with fundraising, please get in touch.

Find out more about volunteering or making a donation by clicking the links. If you would like to discuss fundraising or anything else, please email