Annual Report 2020
by NRP Chair Anne Thorley
given via Zoom at our AGM on November 25th 2020
This year, July 2019 to June 2020 has truly been a year of two halves! Between July 2019 and the beginning of March 2020 The Norfolk Reading Project was successfully supporting many children in schools across Norfolk to improve their literacy skills. With over 150 Reading Support Volunteers in around 50 schools we were providing additional opportunities for those children to practise reading with trained adults in a safe environment.
Many of these schools are in deprived areas where literacy levels are often lower. Reports have recognised the value of trained reading support, confirming that novice readers benefit hugely from regular reading practice with a sympathetic and trusted adult listener. Putting in the “reading miles” at this stage can boost their pace and enjoyment of reading considerably.
We were able to run regular training sessions between July 2019 and March 2020 for 60 new Reading Support Volunteers in the Millennium Library in Norwich with support from the Norfolk Library Services as in previous years. The library service has been tremendously helpful and supportive to our charity and has proved invaluable in distributing our information leaflets and promoting recruitment of further volunteers, we thank them for this ongoing support.
In February we were able to offer another informative continuing development workshop for our volunteers. Zoe Brown from Mancroft Learning presented a very well attended workshop which gave our committed volunteers an opportunity to learn more about Dyslexia and how to support children with Dyslexia. We are hoping to collaborate further with Zoe Brown including further workshops.
The Norfolk Reading Project has been very successful this year in our application for funding to facilitate our work to improve literacy levels. We have been awarded grants from several organisations including Aviva Community Fund and a grant supported by the Norfolk Community Foundation through the Shelroy Charitable Trust Fund. A generous donation was also received from the Earle & Stuart Charitable Trust. We are enormously grateful for this funding which will make it possible to continue to recruit, train and DBS more volunteers to support disadvantaged communities.
We would also like to thank Vanilla for their support with fundraising events both in the boutique and on the tennis courts. We were very sad to have to cancel an event with Vanilla in April.
Unfortunately, the desperate need for additional reading support has been displayed all too clearly following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 and its impact on our children’s education. We have all been personally affected by the pandemic but for us as a charity it has certainly affected what we have been able to achieve in the latter half of this year. All our training sessions from April to July were cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 restrictions and the schools were closed for 5 months (to the beginning of September 2020), making it impossible for our volunteers to support the children who needed it most.
Many of our most experienced volunteers were unable to go into the classroom from the beginning of 2020 as the evidence began to grow with regard to the danger presented by the Covid-19 virus. Many of those volunteers are still unable to return to school but we are hopeful that this will change. We looked at the possibility of remote support as we all became somewhat reluctant experts in online technology. However, it became apparent that schools would need a member of staff to support this technology and as we are all aware, this would be difficult to facilitate.
We have developed Covid -19 guidelines for our volunteers to make it easier to return to the classroom once it is safe for them to do so, this was in line with Government advice to schools. None of us could have predicted what would happen in 2020 but it has illustrated the stark reality that those children in disadvantaged communities have been impacted more by the damaging effects of this pandemic.It is more important than ever before that we are able to provide support to those children to try to minimise the longer term effects on their lifetime opportunities.
The Norfolk Reading Project would like to thank all the wonderful Reading Support Volunteers who give up their time to support children on their reading journey.