THEY dedicate more than 100 hours a year to helping children to learn to read and improve communicational skills – but they need help to reach even more youngsters.

The team of fewer than 30 volunteers who work with assisted reading charity ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children) visit a number of schools throughout the county to give young people a helping hand.

Plans for the Bicester-based charity to expand its remit to more schools in Oxford mean there is the need for more volunteers to work with primary school children in the city.

One volunteer who is setting off on his second year with the charity is retiree Paul O'Hare.

The 70-year-old works with children at East Oxford Primary School in Union Street every week to help children to gain confidence with their reading.

He said: "I was starting to think about what I would do when I reached full-time retirement.

"You start thinking 'what am I going to do to keep myself busy and active?'

"I had heard of ARCh and I suppose I thought it was such a fantastic cause and idea to ensure that children don't slip behind in their reading and conversation."

The dad-of-three, of Sandford-on-Thames, volunteers with the school twice a week, working with three children.

Each child is given a half an hour slot with Mr O'Hare in which they will go through books, games and generally talk with the volunteer.

When he signed up with ARCh last year he was given full training as well as safeguarding children training.

Then charity also gave him all the resources, including books and games, to help support him through the sessions he would be taking with the youngsters.

But the volunteer admits he has found himself in the children's section at the local library for the first time in many, many years looking for more books to take to his school sessions.

The grandfather-of-two, who formerly worked in the health and social sector, said: "ARCh is very good with training and you are given a course at the beginning, it doesn't expect people to have previous experience.

"It also provides you with children's books and when you're with the children some of that time will be talking, some reading and some activity-related or playing games.

"I find it very enjoyable and a privilege to say I do that.

"I often come away from sessions thinking 'that was really nice' and I enjoyed doing that

"It reminds me of a time when I would sit down with my own children and grandchildren and it's just enjoyable – that is the pay off."

Mr O'Hare's two grandchildren are in their teens and he said the work with ARCh is a perfect way of 'keeping in touch with a range of ages'.

Over the past year the children at East Oxford Primary School receiving help from ARCh have been aged seven, eight and nine and this year he will be working with children aged five to seven.

He added: "I feel very new to it compared to some of the volunteers who have been with ARCh for many years.

"There is quite a varied age spread of volunteers within the charity, from all career backgrounds – although a majority are women.

"But I would urge men to also sign up as I have found it incredibly rewarding."

The assisted reading for children charity has worked with thousands of children since it was set up in 2008.

It is run on donations and funding grants and is made up of three staff and almost 30 volunteers who work to support children to learn to read in schools across the county.

Mr O'Hare added: "You get to know the three children you work with that year and get to see them grow.

"You see that confidence grow with their reading and even confidence in trying new things and having conversations they never would have had before.

"That is the most rewarding part."

The charity celebrated a successful year in 2016 and was given a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

The award is the highest that can be given to a local volunteer group to recognise the outstanding work it does in the community.

ARCh's award coincided with the Queen's 90th birthday celebrations and representatives from ARCh were invited to join celebrations on The Mall in London for a special parade and picnic.

ARCh was presented the Queen's Award by The Lord Lieutenant of Oxfordshire, Tim Stevenson, at a ceremony at Cokethorpe School near Witney, which staff, volunteers and supporters were invited to.

The charity is holding training courses towards the end of the month for anyone who wants to get involved.

It is particularly looking for people who could work in schools in Botley, Cutteslowe, Littlemore, Cowley, East Oxford, Headington and Blackbird Leys.

For more details contact ARCh by emailing