Time to Read: Inspiring children to foster a lifelong love of reading

Volunteers, schools and businesses gathered at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast on Monday 4 June to celebrate and recognise the success of Time to Read – a volunteering initiative developed by Business in the Community and supported by the Department of Education.

The programme aims to improve literacy, foster a love of reading, and build the confidence and social skills of children at Key Stage 2 in local primary schools.

More than 80 volunteers came along to the celebration event, to hear about the impact the programme has made on school children across Northern Ireland. Opening the event, author and NI Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zepf treated attendees to a special reading from ‘A Child of Books’ by Oliver Jeffers. Her keynote speech examined the power of reading, especially reading aloud – and the difference it can make to a child’s overall wellbeing and mental health, in addition to improving literacy and life chances.

Claire Gordon, Director of Education & Jobs, Business in the Community, explains: “We are delighted to host this special event today, to honour and recognise the contribution that our Time to Read volunteers make to improving the life chances of our children. Positive and early literacy intervention has been identified as a real need. In fact, scientists have found that children who can read well by the age of seven are more intelligent in later years.

“As an organisation, we operate the Northern Ireland-wide Time to Read literacy project which is currently being delivered in more than 90 schools by over 60 companies, with more than 400 volunteers reading with Key Stage 2 pupils each week. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the Department of Education for its long-standing support, and of course, all of our volunteers – without you, Time to Read simply would not happen!”

Author and NI Children’s Writing Fellow, Myra Zeph, said: “The dedication of Time to Read volunteers is making an enormous difference to hundreds of young lives each year, right across Northern Ireland.” She explains: “Reading regularly with children not only helps to improve literacy skills, but has also been proven to improve children’s mental health and wellbeing, and boost their confidence. It was lovely to have the opportunity to meet the volunteers and some of the children who have benefitted from the programme.”

Faustina Graham, Director of Curriculum, Qualifications and Standards at the Department of Education, adds: “The Department of Education has been supporting the Time to Read programme since 2011, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to endorse the work of the Time to Read volunteers. Business volunteers not only provide vital support to schools and teachers, but their presence and attention also helps to inspire and raise the aspirations of the children who take part. Reading is an essential life skill and developing an enjoyment of reading is a key aspect of the work to raise standards in our schools.”

If your business is interested in getting involved in Time to Read, please visit www.bitcni.org.uk/timetoread to find out more.