NATIONAL children’s literacy charity, Schoolreaders is urgently looking for an army of volunteers to step forward to help the legions of school children who need help to catch up on their reading.

Despite the situation with schools being uncertain due to the Omicron variant, Schoolreaders, which matches volunteers to schools to listen to children read, still has hundreds of active volunteers in primary schools nationwide. Due to increased demand, the charity is looking for volunteers to start this term in schools across Southampton and Hampshire, to help those pupils most disadvantaged following Covid.

Even before the pandemic, one in four children were leaving primary school unable to read to the required standard according to government data.

Schoolreaders’ own research, conducted in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, shows that nearly three quarters of schools (71 per cent) estimated that reading ages at Key Stage 1 (5-7 year olds) had been negatively impacted.

Schoolreaders volunteers are asked to listen to children read a minimum of once a week in term time and to commit to an academic year. By applying now, new volunteers will be matched to a partner school and be ready to start once they have completed a mandatory DBS check and virtual safeguarding training.

Jane Whitbread, founder of Schoolreaders, told the Daily Echo: “Reading, particularly for the youngest children, has been set back enormously by the pandemic and if we don’t rally round now, we risk a generation of children falling behind.

"Children need positive role models in the classroom and we have many schools who are desperate for Schoolreaders’ help. Being one of our volunteers is a very positive thing to do.