A UK charity that offers reading support to disadvantaged school children has launched in Blackburn and is looking for locals to volunteer as readers.

Currently a quarter of children leave primary school every year unable to read to the required standard.

The government has pledged to reduce this figure by 2030 but many children need additional classroom reading support right away.

Children who leave primary school unable to read well can’t reach their full potential in secondary school which is likely to negatively affect their life chances and hinder simple things such as reading instructions, understanding a medicine label or accessing information over the internet.

Lancashire Telegraph: Schoolreader volunteer Freda with a primary school pupilSchoolreader volunteer Freda with a primary school pupil

The project has already launched in other towns and cities across the North of England, and volunteers are now being urged to come forward in East Lancashire, and schools to apply to take part.

Sarah Dean, 33, originally from Preston and now living in Bradford, West Yorkshire, started volunteering in January.

She said: “I am currently listening to children read three afternoons a week at a large primary academy school in the heart of Bradford.

"It’s a multi-cultural school with lots of children from different backgrounds many of whom don’t have English as a first language.

“I find it very uplifting when the children are falling over themselves to come and read to ‘Miss Dean’ during reading time! I feel so trusted and valued.

“Being a Schoolreaders volunteer means you get to help young people and input into their life. The input may be small but it will benefit them in the long run, standing them in good stead for their future.”

Their volunteers are from all walks of life and range from 18 to 92 meaning people of any background can contribute to improving a child’s reading ability and confidence by making reading enjoyable for them.

Lancashire Telegraph: Schoolreaders are launching in Blackburn and looking for volunteersSchoolreaders are launching in Blackburn and looking for volunteers

Another Schoolreader volunteer, Kathy Thompson, said: “You soon build up a realationship with these children and it’s so lovely.

"I feel useful again which is something I missed terribly.

“You really have to put your effort into it but, oh, does it pay off. I always come back from these sessions in the morning and I just feel invigorated.

"I’ve really started to become so interested in seeing these children’s progress.”

Covid has had a large impact on education and resulted in students from low income families becoming more disadvantaged so it’s important now more than ever to provide help to these students.

Lancashire Telegraph: Reading volunteer and primary school pupil LunaReading volunteer and primary school pupil Luna

Jane Whitbread, founder of Schoolreaders, said: “Reading, particularly for the youngest children, has been set back enormously by the pandemic and if we don’t rally round now, we risk thousands of children falling behind.

“Additionally, children benefit enormously from positive role models in the classroom. There is just no substitute for reading aloud to a trusted adult, discussing words or a story and building a rapport.

“Being one of our volunteers is a very positive thing to do and a way individuals can do their bit to help children in their communities, providing a crucial supplement to classroom teaching. Literacy opens doors, helps learning and brings new opportunities.”

By applying now, new volunteers will be matched to a partner school in their area and be ready to start next term once they have completed a mandatory DBS check and virtual safeguarding training.