Volunteer reading programme rolled out to Scottish SMEs thanks to new funding

SMEs encouraged to form Paired Reading partnerships to help boost literacy of primary school children

A volunteer programme to combat literacy inequalities among primary school children in Scotland has been extended to include small and medium sized businesses thanks to additional funding.

BITC Scotland’s Paired Reading programme supports businesses to develop a volunteer partnership with local schools, providing reading support and positive role models for children, as well as volunteer opportunities for employees. The programme which has proven to be a huge success among larger businesses is now being rolled out among SMEs with new funding from the Robertson Trust, the Barrack Charitable Trust and the Ernest Cook Trust.

BITC Scotland is encouraging businesses to get involved with the programme which supports volunteers to go into their local schools to spend half an hour a week reading one-to-one with children aged 7 to 11.

Figures from BITC Scotland show that one in five of the poorest children in Scotland are leaving primary school unable to read well. The Paired Reading programme helps boost confidence among young people, improves literacy, ensuring a child’s success at school and beyond is not determined by their social background.

Prestonfield Primary School in Edinburgh have been involved with the Paired Reading programme for many years.  Head Teacher, Fiona Murray said: “The paired reading programme not only benefits our pupils in terms of significantly improving their literacy skills but also does wonders for their self-confidence and self-esteem. In some cases, children who were reluctant readers at the start have gone on to develop a real love of reading.  

“To be able to have the individual targeted support of an adult from outside school for 30 minutes each week is a tremendous boost to any child's learning and development. Through working alongside people from the business community, children are able to make the link between their learning in school and developing skills for life and work.”

A team of reading partners from People’s Postcode Lottery volunteer at Prestonfield. Laura Anderson, Head of Human Resources at People's Postcode Lottery, said: "It’s great to have the opportunity to take part in such a worthwhile scheme with BITC. The reading sessions are so much fun and the team looks forward to them each and every week. I’d definitely encourage any businesses looking for any volunteering opportunities to take part, you won’t regret it!”

Jane Wood, MD for Business in the Community Scotland, said: “Business in the Community Scotland is delighted to be extending our Paired Reading programme to SMEs to ensure more children benefit from one-to-one support to help boost literacy levels across Scotland. We recognise that cost can be a barrier to small businesses getting involved in volunteering opportunities like this, and are delighted that with the support of our funders we have been able to remove this obstacle.

“Paired Reading is one of a number of integrated programmes which allows businesses to embrace the responsible business agenda while making a real and tangible difference to children in their local area, helping to create more sustainable communities where people can flourish.”

Anyone interested in volunteering with the Paired Reading programme should contact Alison Jones at Business in the Community Scotland on 0131 451 1100 or alison.jones@bitc.org.uk