Tag Archives: volunteer

The Privilege of Learning to Read

While doing some research recently, I came across some alarming headlines: ‘Reading Wars Raging’, ‘Low literacy affecting our economy’ and ‘The Social Costs of Inadequate Literacy’. Each one was an Australian article dated in 2019. The articles’ headlines were specifically designed to evoke a great deal of emotion and action.

As a mother of two boys aged nine and ten, I feel very fortunate that both of my children are ‘at standard’ for their age in literacy. Whilst they both had a few visits with a speech pathologist in their earlier years to improve pronunciation, neither were deterred from reading. Both boys came into the world surrounded by storybooks. From babies, my husband and I would snuggle down with them, read with much animation and search the pictures for clues—where is that Green Sheep hiding?

Certainly, in their first years of school, it was a priority to sit down and ‘do their reader’ and carefully mark it off in their take-home reading diary with a sentence explaining how wonderfully they had tackled the book. This was then validated by a sticker from their teacher. Even now, we have a ten-minute reading rule every day, although it needs some enforcing at times when competing with basketball, the Xbox, and Lego. Our chosen school has a terrific reading program, a great big library full of bright and interesting books, plus reasonable class sizes and passionate teachers.

Upon reflection, I can only sit here and think, ‘Wow! Our children have really been given the privilege of learning to read’. We have had the privilege of:

  • Accessing a speech pathologist during early learning to nip in the bud any pronunciation issues
  • Having the financial discretion to buy an abundance of books and the capacity to visit libraries and reading events
  • Having both parents at home most evenings who had the time and energy to invest in sitting and reading.
  • Having a peaceful home without tension, conflict or other priorities
  • Parents who were aware of strategies to reinforce positive reading experiences
  • Access to grandparents and extended family who attentively read and encouraged their endless chatter about a ‘Pug called Pig’ and the artistic flair of a kraken.
  • A school that prioritises reading and reading support programs similar to that of the Reading Buddies Program.

Through the LLEN’s work to support early learning, I am acutely aware that the privilege of learning to read is not dealt equally to all children, particularly in rural areas. In some areas, there is limited access to speech pathologists. Some rural areas also have high levels of disadvantage and a range of social complexities that directly impact on a child’s early language development.

When the privilege of reading is removed from children and they fail to reach adequate reading standards, there are consequences. Studies indicate that young people with low levels of literacy will:

  • Be more likely to drop out of school early
  • Be less likely to gain meaningful employment
  • Become more reliant of the public health system
  • Be more likely to engage in dangerous use of alcohol and other drugs
  • Be more likely to engage in risky behaviours
  • Be less likely to be involved in community activities
  • More likely be linked to youth justice and other social welfare programs.

Whilst, as individuals, we cannot solve the complex social issues that many children face, we can certainly take the ‘village’ approach and do what we can where we can. Improving access to books and reading seems like a great place to start. So here are my commitments:

  • I will clear out children’s books that have been outgrown and donate them to charity, or to the LLEN for the pop-up libraries.
  • I will continue to volunteer in schools and advocate for the Reading Buddies Program.
  • I will put a book or two under the wishing trees at Christmas time.

I would welcome your ideas and commitments towards tackling the inequity in learning to read and to see if we can rewrite the headlines for our community. In some instances, it really does take a village…

Reading Buddies — It’s simple

How to become a reading buddy in three simple steps. The process is really simple and you will be supported all the way.

Reading Buddies are volunteers who listen to children read, one-on-one on a regular basis at the child’s school. The aim is to foster a love of reading and assist children to develop their reading skills.

Step 1 – Contact us

The first step in volunteering to be a reading buddy is to contact Lorraine at the LLEN office during business hours. The simplest way is to phone 03 5381 0122.
If you can’t phone during business hours, you can lodge an expression of interest online via our website at https://www.llen.com.au/reading-buddies/
Lorraine will respond either by phone or email to arrange a time to catch up in-person (for about half an hour) at the LLEN office.

Step 2 – Meet with us

During this catch-up, you can discuss when, where and why you would like to be a reading buddy and run through some tips for reading with children.
If you don’t already have a Working with Children Check, Lorraine can assist you to apply.

Step 3 – Visit the school

After you meet with Lorraine, she will make arrangements for you to visit the school where you have chosen to volunteer. She will take you to the school or meet you at the school, introduce you to the school staff and run through an orientation session to show you where to go and what to do.
This is where you arrange a time which suits both you and the school for your regular visits.

(Steps 2 and 3 may be able to be completed in one session. This will depend on which school you choose.)

That’s all it takes!

Once you have gone through these three steps, you simply visit the school at your arranged time each week and enjoy the delights of engaging with children as you listen to them read!

Bee a Mentor!

We know that the MATES Mentoring program has made a huge difference in the lives of many young people in our community, but it is not just the mentees that benefit from the program. We hear many stories from mentors about the benefits of being a part of the program.

Mentors and mentees often report that when they meet for the first time, they are quite nervous. Mentor, Suzanne, said, “I was nervous because my mentee’s mother was there. I was worried about what her mother would think, but her mother was lovely and seemed very appreciative.”

The mentoring relationship between Suzanne and her mentee lasted well beyond the required one-year commitment to the program. Suzanne commenced mentoring when her mentee was in grade 5 and they continued to catch up during the transition to secondary college. Suzanne was able to be a friendly face and help her through the transition period. She was also there to support her mentee as she started her first job. Suzanne said, “At one of our catch-ups my mentee took me out to lunch where she now works casually and was proud to introduce me to her work mates”.

Mentoring can have some surprising benefits for the people who volunteer. Being a volunteer mentor helps you to reach out to a young person and make their world a better place. You expand your understanding of those around you and can provide support and certainty for the young person you work with.

Volunteers help hold a community together.

Helping others also raises your own happiness and this carries over to your self-confidence and sense of accomplishment.

Mentors in the MATES Mentoring Program have made the following comments:
MATES was a great way to volunteer in the community. The experience I got out of it was positive and I would do it again. It’s not very time consuming and it was very flexible.

I have found the MATES program very rewarding and always have a smile when I meet my mentee.

“It’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and to make a small difference.

While I am not sure if I had any real influence on my MATE, I have spoken to his teachers and they assure me that I have.

Our time together is very relaxing for me and I use it as part of my self care plan.

Evidence also shows that volunteering within your community may well benefit your physical and mental health. Make a start, sign up to volunteer as a mentor today. Learn about your community. Become part of your community. Support your community. Our rural towns are great places to live – help make them even better.

Bee a mentor!

Contact us by email 
Phone 03 5381 0122

Or fill out an online application form now!