Why I volunteer - Patrick Kenworthy from GRAHAM Group

"I'm always beaming after a reading session because it's as much fun for me as it is for them."

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Patrick Kenworthy is an Energy Manager at our Silver Partner GRAHAM Group, and is in his second year of being a Chapter One online reading volunteer.

Why did you sign up to be a volunteer?
I have teachers in my family - my daughter's a teacher, my grandfather was a teacher, and my great aunt is a retired teacher still going, and she's 99 and a half! And I'm quite chatty, I like speaking to people, so I thought it sounded very suited to me. The little things add up to big things later in life. So anything that helps with literacy, anything that helps children to enjoy reading, will always help a child’s education throughout their school years and beyond.

How have you found your time as a volunteer?
After I started volunteering last year, for the first time, it was a bit of an adjustment at first! I had to recall that 6 year-olds don't have the same attention span as my child at home, who at the time was 17. But this was quickly trounced by the progress my pupil was making last year. That was the bit that made me think, “Wow, this is really good!”

And this year has been even better - I’m reading with two pupils. One of my pupils is a little girl in London who insists that we read twice a week. I think we've done nearly 30 lessons, and she's moved up three reading levels so far, which is fantastic. This is just one of the reasons why I'm not going to stop doing this. When you see that progress in your pupil, you can actually measure it week by week. When you get to say, Let's go back to that word, what do you think that word is?”, and they come out with it straightaway, you know that you've made a tiny little difference.

One of the things I’ve noticed with the little girl I’m reading with this year, is she used to read straight through full stops. Quite early on I said, “Just take a breath between when you see a full stop, take a breath, and then carry on reading”. So now she lets out a big sigh whenever she reads a full stop. It’s funny, but it shows that she's really applying what I tell her and that she’s learned something.

Above: Chapter One pupils with Stephen Hughes, Social Impact Manager at GRAHAM at an end-of-year reading celebration

What are the benefits of volunteer reading with your pupil for you personally?
For me it’s the pride you get from seeing the small difference you’re making to your pupil’s life. And the happy voice I get to hear, the “Hi, it's me, and I remember your name, and I can't wait to meet you. When are you calling me?” It just sets you up for the day! I'm always beaming after a reading session because it's as much fun for me as it is for them. And when you hear that they're having as much fun as you are, then it makes me want to carry on and do it more.

How does volunteering with Chapter One compare with any other volunteering you do or have done in the past?
For a long time, I was a girls' football coach for my daughter’s team, so I've seen children develop over time. And Chapter One is different, obviously, but you still get to help a child learn something and see them enjoy it. So even though this is teaching reading skills rather than football, there’s been a similar outcome.

Above: Chapter One pupils at an end-of-year reading celebration with GRAHAM

Thinking back to the start of the school year, how was your pupil getting on with reading? What changes have you noticed in her reading?
Initially, she struggled with identifying the more tricky words. So whenever we got to a challenging word or a word that she struggled with, when we would repeat the page. And then if she struggled with it on the next page, went back to the previous page and said, “What did we do here?”. Now I don't have to do that as much, and she really focuses on the challenge words now, and remembering them. But overall, I’ve seen a great development in her reading, it's really good. She moved up her reading levels, and she’s desperate to be on purple [the highest reading level on the Chapter One platform] before the end of the year.

Her reading fluency has really improved. She's a very capable reader now. She also really likes getting to choose her stories - now we're repeating stories because she enjoyed them so much! When we re-read a story, I can measure how much she's remembered from the last time she read it. As we're getting nearer to the end of the reading this year, it’s showing me how far she has gone from when we started in October.

What standout moments have there been when reading with your child?
In my first session reading with my little girl, she said to me at the end, “When are you ringing me back?” and I said, “Next week,” and she said, “No, this afternoon!” I had to say, “No, I can't do this afternoon but I'll ring you again on Thursday.” So she knows now I ring her on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Above: Patrick Kenworthy with other GRAHAM volunteers at a Zoom Meet and Greet event with their Chapter One pupils

Check out GRAHAM's podcast episode '20 Minutes With Chapter One' to learn more about why GRAHAM chose to partner with Chapter One.

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.