Pearson’s Booktime Reading Scheme enables staff to support local primary school children through volunteering during work time. Volunteers spend up to one hour per week in a school supporting children with their literacy. By engaging pupils through reading together, conversation and reading related activites, volunteers help them develop a love of reading; grow in confidence; and improve their reading skills.

Simon Lake, who works at Pearson, has been volunteering at Fawbert and Barnards School for over 10 years. We asked him why volunteering matters to him…

“I have volunteered as a reading support volunteer at two schools in Harlow for more than ten years now. Once a week during term time, I spend my lunchtime listening to Year 4 children read.

The Oxford Reading Tree series is commonly used – I am now well-acquainted with the adventures of Biff, Chip and their friends.

When I started at my current school, I was made to feel very welcome by all the staff (including the head teacher), and given training as well as an opportunity to offer feedback. Generally, I have been made to feel welcome and appreciated by the school. The support I’ve received from Volunteering Matters and Pearson has been good throughout the period of my volunteering.

Many of the pupils have a lower reading ability than their peers, but without exception I have looked forward to reading with them from week to week. I have never had any discipline or behaviour issues with the children – the most frustrating problem has simply been forgotten books!

The greatest pleasure has been to see the enthusiasm many have to read with me – who goes first can be a cause of good-natured argument! It is satisfying to see them progress in reading ability during the year: however, I know I have only played a very small part in this. As important, in my view, is the growth in their confidence – especially for the quieter children.

I had not thought about volunteering until Pearson started the reading volunteer scheme in Harlow. It appealed to me because it was an education project. Reading is a life skill that has brought me a lot of pleasure, as well as being a practical necessity. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this project, but enjoyed it from the beginning.

Volunteering has even given me the opportunity to meet colleagues (who also volunteer) I might not have done in the course of my job. I have come to respect even more the work of teachers, and never fail to be impressed by the hard work, organisation and imagination that goes into being a primary school teacher.

For me, volunteering has also reinforced the importance of getting the work-life balance right. I certainly miss the reading during the school holidays, or if I skip a week during term-time. It has become a highlight of my week.

Getting involved with this project has been one of the best decisions I have made during my time at Pearson, and I am grateful to the company for its support. I hope the school and the children I have met have got as much out of it as I have.”