In conversation with: Bookmark Reading Charity
Clémence Smith and Ana Anajuba, Editors-in-Chief, spoke to Bookmark Reading Charity, who help improve children’s literacy rates and are actively looking for new volunteers.
According to the Literacy Trust, one in six adults – approximately seven million people – in England have “very poor literacy skills”. Bookmark, a charity set up in 2018, aims to improve children’s literacy rates through volunteer-run reading programmes. While Bookmark currently offers support for children in years one to five, the charity is currently working on the scope of its programmes.
Founder Sharon Pindar was inspired by her own experiences growing up with a parent who couldn’t read and witnessing how illiteracy impacts a person’s livelihood and confidence. Anna Pickles, Operational Support Executive, told Exeposé that Bookmark’s aims are simple but ambitious: “we want every child to read. Broadly around one in four children are unable to read to the expected standard when they leave primary school. Low literacy rates can close so many doors, and Bookmark wants to help change that”.
In Autumn 2022 alone, Bookmark supported children in over 100 schools in England and Wales. Over 800 active volunteers deliver six-week reading programmes: volunteers undergo mandatory training and then help a child through twelve half-hour slots. When asked about how the charity helps children whose mother tongue is not English, Pickles stated that their reading programmes aren’t designed for a specific type of child. “Our reading programmes have a child-led approach”, added Pickles, “so sessions can be flexible. We want children to enjoy the programme and build their confidence.”
Low literacy rates can close so many doors, and Bookmark wants to help change thatAnna Pickles, Operational Support Executive at Bookmark
In 2021-2022, over 1,300 children received at least one reading programme. In that same year, 44 per cent of children who were enrolled in a Bookmark programme ended the year at or above the expected reading standard for their age group, compared to just 8 per cent before receiving support from the charity.
The charity started in London delivering face-to-face sessions: it moved online during the pandemic and now delivers the majority of its programmes through an online tutoring platform called Bramble. According to Pickles, this has allowed the charity to widen its geographical reach and gain access to more disadvantaged schools.
The volunteering programme is open to everyone, explained Pickles: “We would really encourage students to get involved, particularly as our volunteering scheme is so flexible. You can easily fit it around your studies. The brilliant thing about volunteering is that you get to see the child’s confidence and their love for reading grow. I can personally attest to how rewarding that feels!”
More information about Bookmark is available on their website.