An appeal has been launched to find new volunteers willing to help primary school children in Oxfordshire with their reading.

Bicester-based charity ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children), said demand has increased for people who are available to help youngsters enjoy reading throughout the county.

At the moment, hundreds of volunteers help in local schools via ARCh.

The charity asks prospective volunteers to undergo interview, an enhanced DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) check and to supply two references.

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It provides comprehensive training (currently via Zoom), resources and support and works to Covid safe guidelines.

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

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Since the pandemic began many more children have been negatively impacted.

ARCh volunteers are asked to spend half an hour with each child they support, ideally twice a week, during the school day.

Sessions involve sharing books, games and lively conversation and are as much fun for volunteers as they are for the children!

As sessions usually take place during the early afternoon the opportunity can even be suitable for those in work if they are able to take extended lunch periods.

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Jane Rendle, co- founder of ARCh, said: “Reading is the key to a happy and successful life.

“The pandemic has halted progress for so many children and the most disadvantaged have been particularly affected.

“We have many schools on our wating list who are desperate for ARCh support help to enable their pupils to catch up.

“All our volunteers love what they do; their sessions become important parts of their week and the children they work with very much look forward to their ARCh time so everyone benefits

“This is a most rewarding volunteering opportunity to help the next generation and we would encourage anyone interested to contact us to find out more.”

Since it started out in 2008, ARCh’s professionally trained Reading Mentors have helped to transform the lives of thousands of children by giving them a lifelong love of reading

The charity has about 260 Reading Helpers who give their time generously to support the literacy and communication skills of 800 children in 120 Oxfordshire primary schools each year.

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The number of schools requesting the charity’s service continues to grow, and as a result it needs to expand its volunteer base.

ARCh is working towards resuming full support in each of its schools.

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