Being an "unofficial granny" and the rewarding feeling of helping children to read are among the motivators for volunteers who have between them clocked up 140 years with charity ARCh.

The Bicester-based organisation recruits, trains and supports volunteers in primary schools across Oxfordshire, where they help children who have trouble reading.

Long-serving volunteers were celebrated at the charity's award evening last Tuesday at Kidlington Baptist Church and presented certificates by former Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry.

ARCh development manager Jane Rendle said: "There were about 100 volunteers along with Sir Tony at the awards to celebrate our year's work.

"Then we also had our long-service awards as well. We had so many - five years, 10 years and 15 years which is just so amazing.

"It was lovely to celebrate their long-serving contributions and this year was also a special one as not only a celebration of the year's work but also of our Queen's Award."

In June this year, staff at ARCh were given the royal seal of approval for their work making reading accessible for children.

The organisation was given the Queen's Award for Voluntary Service – the highest award a charity can receive and staff joined the many thousands on The Mall for the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations.

At the awards ceremony, Sir Tony spoke of his admiration for the charity by complimenting the volunteers and the good work ARCh does in the county's primary schools.

Ms Rendle said: "We are always looking for more volunteers and we can give people the opportunity to join an award-winning organisation and a group of volunteers that we really value."

For more information contact ARCh on

Oxford Mail:

Rosemary Fiander

KEEN bookworm Rosemary Fiander from Finmere has been supporting children through reading with the charity for 15 years.

She was presented the long-service award for her on-going commitment which she said stems from a long-running tradition of reading with her family.

She said: “I have always been into reading myself and with my children I always loved to share books and felt it was an important thing to do.

“I started as a volunteer when it was originally called Volunteer Reading Help before that moved away from Oxfordshire and ARCh grew.

“It is great to sit with children and to talk and read with them and through the year you build up a relationship with them and stop them being reluctant and enjoy reading.

“It just feels like something that is really worthwhile if you get more people reading.”

The 68-year-old has worked the entire 15 years at Brookside Primary School in Bicester and most recently has been working with children aged between seven and nine.

For half an hour twice a week the mother of four works with each child on games, rhyming and reading.

She said: “I have learnt an awful lot about Liverpool football club. One of the children I have had was a big fan so we used that to read up on Liverpool, and I have had similar with dinosaurs or anything that interests the children.”

Mrs Fiander is considering hanging up her volunteer hat with ARCh after 15 years as her husband has recently retired.

But she recommended anyone to join what she said is a “fantastic charity”.

Oxford Mail:

Jackie Gould

A SELF-TITLED “unofficial granny” has been awarded for her dedication to 15 years of volunteering with ARCh.

Jackie Gould, from South Oxfordshire has been working with children at Dunmore Primary School for many years and shared her love of reading.

She said: “I remember seeing an advert in the library and I have always loved reading, my whole family love reading all the time and we always had such fun with it.

“I enjoy working with children and we spend half an hour each with three children over two sessions a week playing memory games and reading stories.

“It is a bit like being an unofficial granny really.

“Naturally children can be quite quiet to begin with but soon come up and say ‘can I tell you this’, it makes you feel like you are doing well as they start to communicate with you.”

Ms Gould has been working with the Abingdon school over the years with a number of children most recently those aged six and seven.

Oxford Mail:

Sue Allen

MOTHER-of-two Sue Allen started volunteering with ARCh a decade ago after wanting to work with children and do something rewarding following her retirement.

Mrs Allen, from Caversfield near Bicester, was awarded her ten year long-service award for committing her time to working with children at Bure Park Primary School in Bicester.

She said: “I wanted the opportunity to work with the youngsters as I thought it will be so rewarding helping them develop their reading skills.

“I wanted to give something back and reading is something everyone should be able to do.”

Mrs Allen has been working most recently with Year 2 children at the Lucerne Avenue school, working with children for half an hour twice a week.

The former nurse said: “The children can be very funny because they all have their little quirks. They can also be challenging but it is interesting to see how they develop over the school year.

“I am not sure about carrying on for another ten years but you never know, I do want to carry on for as long as I can.

“ARCh are so supportive and that is very important, I would highly recommend it.”

Oxford Mail:

Biddy Rounce

DEDICATED volunteer of 15 years Biddy Rounce, from Great Coxwell in south Oxfordshire, says she loves teaching children to read.

Mrs Rounce has been helping inspire young bookworms at Longcot and Fernham Primary School, in Faringdon.

After completing an English literature degree with Oxford Brookes Mrs Rounce was asked what she was going to do with the achievement.

She said: “I just thought why not join ARCh and help children to read.

“The best thing about it is the children because they are lovely and you never know what you are going to get with them – you work with the same three children for a year.

“The children come out very readily and it is nice getting to know them really well.

“It is just a lovely charity.”

The mother-of-two works with children at the south Oxfordshire school twice a week, providing one-on-one reading plus board games and activities.

Mrs Rounce has been working most recently with the children aged nine and 10, and will be going back in September to start on Year 16 with the charity.

Oxford Mail:

Angela Wiggle

MORE than a decade has been devoted to schools in West Oxfordshire by ARCh volunteer Angela Wiggle.

She said working with children for 15 years with the charity has been very rewarding and has enjoyed reading with students between Year 3 and Year 5.

Mrs Wiggle spent 10 years volunteering at Witney Community School and five years at Hailey Primary School.

The part time Owen Mumford medical manufacturers worker said: "It seemed like something I would enjoy and hopefully I would be doing some good by joining.

“I do really enjoy it and find it very rewarding to see the change in children starting to read.

“In that half an hour with each child we talk about books and whatever they think of that comes from the stories.

“The children are all different and have their own issues with reading books.”