Literacy is critical to understanding and succeeding in today's world. A report from the National Literacy Trust shows that low literacy is associated with poverty and that individuals with low literacy are "more likely to be in routine work, receive working age benefits, live in disadvantaged housing conditions and more deprived areas and experience homelessness".
Business in the Community (BITC's) Right to Read programme aims to raise literacy standards by increasing the number of trained volunteers providing reading support for children ages seven through eleven. Since January 2015, Freeths, a national law firm, has worked to increase this number. More than 70 of its staff members have volunteered for the programme, helping over 250 children.
The volunteers listen to the children read, talk to them about the reading materials, and sometimes play literacy games with them. They also serve as positive role models, and they raise career awareness, answering the children's questions about working life, experiences in education, and qualities necessary to work at a law firm. The support improves, not only the children's reading abilities, but also their self-esteem, aspiration and behavior.
Freeths has partnerships with eight different primary schools throughout the nation. It has developed innovative and cost effective training methods which use video conferencing to prepare staff all across the UK for volunteering. Following the initial training session and DBS check, volunteers spend one hour per week for a school term of 10-12 weeks working with the children.
Freeths strives to make a difference in the wider community, but its work with Right to Read makes a difference in the firm as well. Right to Read reports that company staff who become reading support volunteers have better motivation and that the work promotes a 'feel-good-factor' in the company. Most importantly, Right to Read volunteers help foster a generation of literate employees and consumers who will one day fill their shoes.