The Joy of Reading programme…one year on

  • In Autumn 2021 we launched the Joy of Reading programme, a literacy project in collaboration with local independent schools in our Zone
  • The programme provided an opportunity for 16-17 year olds to be a reading buddy to children on the WLZ programme, encouraging reading for pleasure
  • Through this project, we have been able to connect independent schools with our work and create impact that goes beyond the classroom

Embedded in the fabric of West London Zone, is our commitment to linking up opportunities, local communities and, people. The Joy of Reading programme – launched in 2021 was designed as a way to do just this. We already provide a range of literacy support for young people on our programme with our academic Delivery Partners and our academic delivery officers but we wanted to go beyond this. Curating a programme that would connect student volunteers from independent schools with children on our programme to be a reading buddy, working with children to build their reading confidence, enjoyment of books, and their overall motivation to read.

Within our Zone, there can be lots of factors that impact a young person’s ability to read at home. According to the National Literacy Trust, 2 in 5 parents said they didn’t have a quiet space for their child to read at home, while 1 in 10 reported that they felt too busy or stressed to engage with their child’s literacy at home*. Book ownership, the home learning environment and overall confidence can affect a young person’s reading frequency and enjoyment. One of the aims of the Joy of Reading programme was to create an informal and fun environment for children to read with a student volunteer at their own pace, and without the formality of a teacher or adult, to increase reading for pleasure.

Partnering in our Zone 

Every week, our reading volunteers from St Paul’s Girls, Queen’s Gate School and St Paul’s School would meet up with young people on the programme for 30 minutes of reading. Encouraging children to engage positively with books and use their imagination to have fun with stories. Alongside strengthening their reading, the one-to-one time with their reading buddy allowed them to build confidence with new people, and develop speaking and listening skills. Our reading volunteers also benefited from a 2 hour training session, including tips on how to motivate the young people they are supporting and safeguarding training. The sessions became a weekly event that the volunteers and young people alike looked forward to.


Weekly one-to-one sessions with their reading buddies

The Joy of Reading impact   

The Joy of Reading programme provided additional literacy support for children like Lois*, who joined our programme age 6. She struggled with her emotional wellbeing which affected her ability to make lasting relationships with her peers. The Joy of Reading programme not only encouraged an appreciation for books, but for Lois, it also opened up the space for her to socialise with other young people from different schools. Through these conversations, she was able to develop social interaction skills in a space where positive relationships could form.

“The main skill I learnt was patience and being able to change what I was doing depending on how the children were and how engaged they were. Flexibility but also an ability to change your interactions so that it better suits the child when they are in a particular mood. “ Reading Volunteer


A new chapter

Now in 5 WLZ schools, and with 35 children partnered with a reading volunteer, the programme also provided the opportunity to create further lasting impact by benefiting more children and young people on our programme. Through deepening our relationships with independent schools, we have been able to reach new audiences, gain new supporters and establish ourselves as a local charity that puts the community at the centre. Through these fantastic relationships, we were also proudly announced as St Paul's Boys school charity of the year, meaning that we are able to benefit from more fundraising efforts, that help us to continue delivering support and raise awareness of WLZ among independent school students and parents. Young people are at the heart of what we do at WLZ and we hope that the student volunteers involved in our programme will continue to contribute to community leadership in the future.

92.9% of independent school students would recommend the programme

A year on since its launch, we’re still learning and adapting how we can make the Joy of Reading programme a positive and enjoyable experience for everyone. Through learning from feedback, adapting training and understanding our supporters, we can further deepen these vital relationships. It has been a great opportunity to unlock new and innovative ways of joining up our community to best support every child in our Zone. We are looking forward to continuing to partner with our schools and creating lasting change as we head into the summer term.

Thank you to St Paul's Girls, St Paul's Boys School and Queen's Gate School for your partnership

Children and young people’s access to books and educational devices at home during the cost-of-living crisis. (2023, February 27). National Literacy Trust.

*Names changes and images unrelated

together, every child and young person can flourish.