I HAVE been one of the ARCh reading helpers at my local school for six years now. On my first day I turned up with a box of books feeling a little apprehensive.

I had done the ARCh training but still wondered how I would get on and how I would fit in.

But the training is good preparation and the ARCh approach really works: regular one-to-one child-centred attention which brings reading into a web of activities – storytelling, games, finding out and looking at things.

The teachers know that, and they’re appreciative and welcoming colleagues. It’s a good relationship to be in. I’ve never looked back.

It’s a big commitment, and sometimes I wish I could take up an exciting invitation instead of packing my book box, but now it is so much part of my life I find it easy to organise around.

I hope the children find the sessions we do are fun. I do. There are times when things don’t go as well as I hoped, and a sense of humour is a definite advantage.

There are many times when I have the satisfaction of using all the skills I have built up over the years to help someone achieve something. There’s nothing like the moment when a child has a breakthrough.

It happens, because you see them so often and become their friend. They call me by my first name because I want to make that distinction, but are often slightly puzzled because I am probably older than their nan.

‘Were you born in the eighties?’ one of my children asked, and I actually felt flattered, and the years melted away.

It’s not teaching really – although you do get quite expert at knowing your phonics.

I find that going to ARCh workshops are really helpful, you get a chance to discuss things with other volunteers and professionals in the field.

There’s a lot of support and opportunity to develop new skills and approaches. You aren’t a well-meaning and untrained volunteer – you’re a mentor for the children finding their way through the world of books.

Many of the children I have met find reading daunting for many reasons, so my role is to choose books from the huge ARCh collection to show them that reading and stories can be part of their life.

It is so rewarding when someone tells you he is starting to read at home and his mother doesn’t have to remember his tablet for the car any more.

Or when a mischievous boy enjoys a cookery book because his father is a chef.

Last year I had lines of children waiting for me with parcels of stones to look at after a book about fossils inspired one of my children to start a craze for geology.

The ARCh approach of mixing reading with games works too – enjoyable for the children and incidentally building up confidence and abilities they might need.

I do this because I find it rewarding, challenging and absorbing, but of course it’s important to fight the corner for reading when children have so many other distractions.

It is so important for children who just need a little extra help to overcome their reading block.

All the studies show that literacy is implicated in all areas of social disadvantage. So I’m doing my bit, and that’s very nice to know.

ARCh is always looking for more volunteers and businesses to work across the county, supporting children to read. For more information about the volunteer role contact 01869 320380 or online at archoxfordshire.org.uk