Local charity Read Easy Southampton, which provides free coaching to adults who struggle to read, is celebrating a year since its formal launch.
The project, run entirely by volunteers, has had enormous success over the last twelve months. There are currently 47 adults (known as Readers) receiving the vital help they need to gain essential reading skills.
The group started with ambitious plans to recruit a large group of coaches and it now has 62.
Team Leader Nick Mabey says “we now have a fantastic community of volunteer coaches, all united in their desire to help others improve their reading. Our coaches come from all different walks of life. They don’t have to be experts in literacy or have worked in education.”
Full training is provided over Zoom by Read Easy UK and a coach is then introduced to their prospective reader by the coordinator for their area. To keep travel to a minimum, coaches are paired with a reader who lives close to their nearest approved venue.
The first reader to complete the programme has spoken about his experience. He says “I didn’t learn to read as a child as I was judged to be a slow learner and put at the back of the class. I have enjoyed the course and would encourage others to do the same.”
His positive experience is echoed by the coaches themselves, with many commenting on how enjoyable they are finding it. Lucy, who started coaching in November 2021, says “No one should feel left behind or diminished because they cannot read. For me, at the heart of this project is how much I believe in what I am doing. I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.”
All Read Easy groups must raise their own funds to pay for the training and materials, and Southampton have been active throughout last year to ensure they can meet demand. Activities have included running the ABP half marathon, promoting a Just Giving page, hosting social events with raffle prizes and competing in the quiz during Southampton Libraries week. Last year they received grants from the National Lottery Community Fund, Southampton Community Chest and Magic Little Grants. They also had some generous contributions from private individuals sent to their Local Giving Page. The group are currently putting on their thinking caps to find fun and inventive ways to raise their next injection of cash to carry them forward through 2023.
One of the challenges of running the project is having the right number of coaches in the right parts of the city, ready to help readers as they are referred. The Southampton group has developed great referral partnerships that provide a steady flow of people looking for help with their literacy. The aim is to offer reading coaching as soon as possible, and certainly within three months. Therefore it is important to have coaches recruited and trained across the city, enough safe and approved venues where coaching can take place, and manuals and resources available for use. All of this requires a mixture of tenacity, agility and creativity. They are receiving requests for reading help in the east as far as Hamble, to the west in Waterside and the New Forest, and on the Isle of Wight. The team are constantly learning how to overcome these complex and exciting challenges.
Ambitious plans for 2023 are already underway. An outreach project to offer reading coaching to adults in the Millbrook area of the city is being set up and the first reading pairs will be established in Ryde on Isle of Wight this spring.
- If you know an adult who struggles to read, please let them know that Read Easy can help them. Get in touch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- If you are an agency in touch with adults who may need reading support, contact email@example.com
- If you are interested in the role of reading coach, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org
- Venues who can offer space free of charge should email email@example.com
- The group welcome fundraising offers and ideas so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
- Donations can be made directly at https://localgiving.org/charity/read-easy-southampton/
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