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Some more champions in London

2012-08-29

Peer volunteers positively impact family literacy

An evaluation report published by the National Literacy Trust indicates that peer volunteers improve how parents support their children’s literacy and language development. As part of the project London Literacy Champions, nearly 500 community volunteers worked with over 1500 families from 20 London boroughs from June 2011 to July 2012.

Families taking part had children aged two to five years. They were living in disadvantaged areas or were experiencing particular challenges such as children who under-achieved on assessment levels, parents with limited English language skills, parents who did not currently engage positively with the setting or parents having literacy needs themselves. Family backgrounds most often included parents being out of work, being a one parent family, living in isolation or poor housing conditions.

The volunteers were recruited among the local community and received training in areas such as literacy awareness, facilitating literacy sessions, working together with families, carrying out evaluation, practical activities for young children and safeguarding. Once they were trained, Literacy Champions were placed in local partner settings and worked for a minimum of one hour per week for at least five weeks.

Some volunteers followed a structure to their weekly meetings with families, including one Literacy Champion in Waltham Forest:

Week 1: Welcome and introduction to the project

Week 2: Library visit

Week 3: Songs and rhymes

Week 4: Messy play

Week 5: Out and about – trip to the supermarket

Week 6: Story treasure box

However, the project design allowed volunteers to respond to the needs of the family and the child’s interests flexibly.

In the evaluation, parents reported significant improvements in their children’s literacy development and how they could contribute to it. 83 per cent of parents reported an increase in their confidence in sharing books with their child. Furthermore, 80 per cent recognized the importance of talking with their child about something they are interested in.

More than half of the children (52 per cent) engaged more often with books and stories, and 46 per cent showed improved speaking and listening skills. 69 per cent of project staff attributed these changes directly to the work of the London Literacy Champions.

Literacy Ambassador volunteers encouraged friends and family to attend family literacy activities at their local library or children’s centre for the first time. 100 per cent of parents felt more confident about attending, roughly half of them stating that it was unlikely that they would have attended without their volunteer’s support.

Looking at the volunteers, 88 per cent were satisfied with their work opportunity, being happy that it made a difference to the supported families. 73 per cent would volunteer again, and 84 per cent would recommend this kind of activity to a friend.

London Literacy Champions was a Team London initiative funded by the Mayor of London and the Reuben Foundation, delivered by the National Literacy Trust. Team London tries to harness volunteers from across the capital to improve the quality of life and opportunities of Londoners. Nearly a third of London children struggle with literacy at age 11.

London Literacy Champions showcase


 
 

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