Sacred Heart Ilkley working in partnership with the local 'University of the Third Age' group

Everyone - schools, volunteers and especially the pupils - benefits from the Reading in Schools project.

The initiative, which was set up and mentored by U3A member Geoff Howard, is now in its second year and running well in seven Wharfe Valley primary schools. It currently involves 14 U3A volunteers going into the schools to help pupils with their reading and comprehension skills.

The project was approved by the trustees in early summer 2017 via an item in the News Flash and Geoff was asked to explore the possibility of a project under the Ilkley U3A Social Responsibility initiative. Initially he looked into, operating within the structure of a highly reputable, wellestablished charity already making this provision nationally.

Guidance

However, although at least one of our U3A members had already volunteered for this charity, it became clear that the charity had not yet established a presence in Wharfe Valley schools. As a result of a direct mail shot to local primary schools, there were positive responses from four: Ashlands and Sacred Heart in Ilkley, Burley

Woodhead and Addingham.

In January last year the first volunteers started in these schools. By the Easter, Moorfield preparatory school had joined and by the end of 2018 so had All Saints primary. Ben Rhydding primary joined in January 2019 with its volunteers starting after Easter, giving us a total of seven schools.

To gauge how the scheme is working I talked to a headteacher and a volunteer working in one of the schools.

Sacred Heart head Alixena Lubomski praised the scheme. "It is a regular reading session which is lovely, and the volunteers are given guidance about the sorts of questions to ask so that the children can have a really good conversation about the books they are reading," she said.

The school had noticed tangible improvements in the reading ages of participating pupils, who had gained in

independent reading ability, she said, and welcomed the fact that the U3A volunteers were bringing a new interest and an older age group from the community into the school.

Sue Bevington,. one of the volunteers at the school, is working with three seven and eight year olds from Year 3. She was attracted to the scheme because she enjoys helping the children and feels that she is giving something back.

Confidence

She thinks it is important to take a longterm view because it takes time for thechildren's reading and comprehension skills to improve. But she says it is very rewarding and you can see the pupils grow in confidence and ability.

Success comes in different guises. Both schools and volunteers agree that the Reading in Schools project is a success for the pupils. Increased confidence in reading, understanding, and in their own abilities, is a positive result for all concerned.