Volunteer Reading Help: Anne Loftus Interview

On Thursday 1st July I will be speaking at the House of Commons reception of Volunteer Reading Help, the UK charity which supports children’s literacy development through one-to-one mentoring.

Today we’re joined by Anne Loftus, who wears two hats as a Volunteer Services Manager and as a Reading Helper in her own right. Anne is based in Kent and was responsible for training me as a Helper way back in the day!

How did you first get involved with VRH?
My involvement with VRH started in November 1993 when I was lucky enough to be taken on as a Volunteer Services Manager in Kent. My role involved recruiting and training volunteers who would then give individual help to children who were struggling with reading and in need of some 1:1 support. It is the best job in the world as you meet such wonderful, caring people who want to give something back to their local community and help children with their reading and confidence.

How long have you been working as a Reading Helper?
I have worked as a VSM for almost 17 years and became a Volunteer Reading Helper myself 4 years ago. I worked with a Looked After Child, Ryan, after school for just over a year and when he moved on to secondary school I worked with his younger brother, Tristan.

What were your first experiences of the programme like?
Although I had been training volunteers for many years it was very different becoming a volunteer myself. Ryan had a lot of problems and could be quite difficult at times. Without the knowledge of the VRH training I think I would have found him very difficult to cope with. Through playing games I was able to calm him down when necessary.

How have things changed at VRH in the intervening years?
The content of the training has not changed very much, although it has been updated regularly. Our volunteers have always been carefully selected; we still interview all volunteers, take up references and run an enhanced CRB check before training. Our main way of working – giving children choices, making the sessions fun and relaxed, putting no pressure on the child – this has not changed since VRH began in 1973.

What is your proudest achievement as a Helper?
My proudest achievement as a VRH Reading Helper is the day Tristan stood on the podium at the House of Commons last year and read his poem “I Like Lambourghinis”! I thought I would burst with pride!! I have worked with Tristan for 3 years now, following him to secondary school last autumn (his choice!) His confidence and reading ability has grown immensely.

How have you developed personally as a result of your involvement with VRH?
Working as a VRH Reading Helper is so rewarding and fulfilling. To see a child’s face light up when they see you and to share the very special time with a child – sometimes just chatting or reading the child a story. My own confidence has grown and meeting such wonderful people is a tonic.

Why should people volunteer their time with VRH?
If a person likes the company of children and enjoys reading, it is the most perfect form of volunteering. Plenty of patience and a sense of humour are quite important too. Just 3 hours per week and you can help to change a child’s life forever. The work is rewarding and great fun too. I truly believe that our volunteers get as much from the sessions as the children.

There will be more on Volunteer Reading Help at this blog in the run-up to the Commons event.
If you’d like to get involved with VRH, or just find out more about their incredible work, go to http://vrh.org.uk/Page.aspx

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