STAFF at a charity helping children struggling to read are celebrating after seeing an increase in volunteers coming forward to help out.

ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children) trains and supports volunteers to work one-to-one with primary school children to help spread a love of books.

As the Oxford Mail reported in February, the charity needed more helpers to step forward and work in schools across the county.

It currently works with children in more than 100 schools, but had a waiting list of about 30 schools, especially in East Oxford and Blackbird Leys.

But following the appeal more volunteers have come forward to sign up, and next month they will be holding a training day at its base in Bicester to teach recruits about the role.

ARCh development manager Jane Rendle, who has been with the charity since it started eight years ago, said she was delighted with the response it had received.

She said: "We've had quite a few people come forward, the thing these people have in common is that they all share a love of reading.

"They see it as a key life skill.

"We still want more people to get involved in the community though, especially in places like Banbury, Bicester and Didcot."

All volunteers are given a box of books and games specially chosen to help children get interested in reading.

They then spend about an hour twice a week at a nearby primary school, working with the same three children for about a year.

Speaking about the role, Ms Rendle said: "It is quite a big time commitment and we expect people to stay about a year.

"We welcome people from all walks of life, old and young, men and women."

As well as volunteers, the charity is also calling on local businesses to get involved by releasing employees each week to help out in schools.

Ms Rendle added: "We know that there are a lot of large businesses around with people who are interested in volunteering.

"For each person you are only looking at about 30 hours a year as a commitment.

"For the companies it is about investing in your future workforce, and it's good for staff as well to get out there."

So far 15 people have signed up for the Bicester training days, on May 10 and 11, although there is still space for a few more.

The charity has also been nominated for its work through the OCVA Awards, with the ceremony taking place on May 11 at Oxford Town Hall.

Last year, it received a grant of £3,900 from the Gannett Foundation, the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail's parent company Gannett, to buy a host of news books.

The latest drive comes off the back of several years of investment in improving reading skills in the county after pupils had some of the worst in the country for Key Stage 1 results in 2010.

The two-year Oxfordshire Reading Campaign was launched in 2012, with almost 1,200 primary school pupils taking part in the campaign, run with the National Literacy Trust, backed by the Oxford Mail and funded by the county council.

And in 2014, two more schemes – Gaining Momentum and Every Child Writes – were launched to continue the progress.

Alongside these, ARCh has been working to develop the reading skills of the county's children.

To volunteer, or to find more information, go to