As a result of Covid, I found myself out of work around mid-April 2020. As I’m a freelancer, I’d actually done quite a bit of volunteering over the years between work contracts. During the Summer, I found that I was missing something. I looked around for volunteer opportunities but felt I wanted to do something different than I previously had, something personable and ideally in my local community.
I stumbled across the programme the Write Offs on Channel 4 with Sandi Toksvig, and it really moved me. I was very surprised by the number of adults in the UK who face literacy challenges. I thought that’s what I want to do. So, I searched online and found Read Easy and saw that there was a group near me in Wythenshawe. I wasn’t sure that I necessarily had the skills to be a Coach as I had no prior teaching experience and thought that might be needed, but most of my career has been in marketing and communications and I had also in the past informally mentored colleagues, so I felt I had relevant experience that I could bring to the role.
So, I got in contact with the Wythenshawe group and was delighted, after going through the interview process, to be offered the chance to become a Reading Coach.
Due to the pandemic, I’ve done all my coaching online so far. I’ve had to find ways of making that work, so for instance screen sharing and using a whiteboard function has been really useful. I’ve had a lot of support from my group and have worked with other Coaches to overcome some of the challenges of online video conferencing. And, actually though face to face coaching is preferred, there are a few advantages to online coaching such as the Reader not having to travel to sessions, flexibility of times that we meet and easily rearranged sessions if my Reader feels unable to attend.
My coaching approach is very much to make my Reader feel relaxed and comfortable. I never want to feel like we are in a classroom environment because that’s not an environment I’ve ever really been that comfortable with myself despite the formal education I’ve had over the years in school, university and in my working life. I want my Reader to feel that I’m there to support them to learn not to judge.
My group is lovely – from the Management Team to the other Coaches. The interactive online coach training sessions from Read Easy were brilliant and I always feel very supported by our Coordinator too. I’ve got people I can bounce ideas off which is great. We’ve even had some mental health training organised by our group which has been valuable, and I’ve been able to take some of the tips into my coaching sessions.
For me, the best thing about being a Reading Coach is watching my Reader develop and seeing his confidence grow. I still can’t imagine what it’s like not being able to read because I take it so much for granted. I read a lot, on my phone, books – most things we do, we need to be able to read. It amazes me that there are so many people out there with literacy issues that are getting through life by finding coping mechanisms and just getting on with it. So, seeing someone improve their life in whatever form that takes for them is a big part of why I volunteer as a Coach.
I think in improving a Reader’s life buy helping them learn to read you also improve your own life with that great feeling of having done something so meaningful. To anyone thinking about volunteering for Read Easy, I’d say don’t hesitate. You can’t really beat helping someone to achieve their goals. It’s a real feel-good situation for both parties.
"You can’t really beat helping someone to achieve their goals. It’s a real feel-good situation for both parties."Jane - Reading Coach, Read Easy Wythenshawe