Why I volunteer - Karen Winward from Jacobs

“Find out what your pupil enjoys and use it to develop a rapport.”

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Karen Winward is a Communications Lead at our Gold Partner Jacobs and has been a reading volunteer since 2023. Karen has passed her love of reading onto her two children, and her lockdown project was to write and publish her own children’s picture book called Zee Zee the Zebra. She is also the Patron of Reading for her local school and relished the opportunity to share her love of reading more widely by volunteering with Chapter One.

Why did you sign up as a volunteer for Chapter One?
I became aware that another team within Jacobs was volunteering with Chapter One and thought it sounded like a brilliant idea. I have a desk-based job, so finding 30 minutes each week to read online with a child wasn’t too challenging. Even better, Jacobs provides paid volunteering time which makes it even easier for employees to give something back to those in need.

Could you tell us what you’ve learned during your time as a volunteer?
The first thing I learned is that it’s really important to build a relationship with the child – they need to want to read with you each week rather than seeing it as a chore. Finding out what my pupil enjoys doing in his spare time, and using that to build a rapport, worked really well. In this case, his hobby is football, so we spend the first few minutes of each session talking about the football at the weekend (both a match he may have played, and how his favourite Premier League team has got on).

I’ve also learned to be flexible – some weeks, he might have had to break from a fun activity to come and do his reading session and will be itching to get back to class, so we’ll do a shorter session. In contrast, some weeks he is particularly focused and engaged so we’ll use the full 30 minutes.

What has been the most noticeable change in reading for this pupil?
At the time of writing, I’ve completed 12 reading sessions with my pupil. He has moved up a reading band, can now correctly read a lot of ‘tricky word’ flashcards that he couldn’t previously, and his fluency has come on leaps and bounds. The Chapter One portal makes it easy to navigate each session using a variety of activities and enables me to record notes after each session to help track progress.

Has being involved in the programme changed your perceptions of child literacy and reading in any way?
As someone who was brought up in a family of keen readers and a house full of books, I find it incredibly sad that almost a million children in the UK do not own a single book of their own. Along with my part-time author work and being Patron of Reading for my local school, volunteering with Chapter One is another way that I can help encourage children to read for pleasure and reap the multiple benefits that this can bring.

How can companies get involved in Chapter One?

Chapter One’s virtual, time-efficient, flexible model for volunteering will enhance your company’s employee value proposition, whilst fulfilling CSR or social value commitments around education, social mobility and inclusion. Employees can:

- volunteer online directly from their desks with no travel

- make a direct impact on the lives of children from disadvantaged communities

- support local communities across the UK

- improve their own well-being by helping others

- reconnect with your company’s social purpose

If you’re interested in joining us, we’d love to hear from you! You’ll find out who we currently work with on our partners’ page.. You can contact us here or email sarah.taylor@chapterone.org.