Berkshire Community Foundation (BCF) has awarded local reading charity ABC to Read a grant of £5,000 to address the education gap caused by Covid-19. This is in addition to numerous previous grants awarded by the Foundation in ongoing support of the charity.
Addressing literacy in primary school aged children is essential to improving their future opportunities. One in four children left primary school in 2019 unable to read to the required standard  and school closures caused by the Covid crisis will almost certainly have made this statistic worse. Unemployed adults are twice as likely to have weak literacy skills as those in full-time employment  and low levels of literacy cost the UK an estimated £81 billion a year in lost earnings and increased welfare spending, impacting ‘the success of the economy as a whole’. Covid has only accentuated these trends.
Illiteracy persists in the UK today, so the support of one-to-one ABC to Read volunteer mentors is pivotal to help turn around the prospects of Berkshire children, particularly in this time of catch-up learning. While there are some very affluent areas in Berkshire where children are exceeding expectations, there are also some deprived areas such as Central Reading. The National Education Union 2018 found that among a sample of Berkshire school heads and staff, 87% say poverty is having a significant effect on learning with numbers particularly high at primary schools in Reading and Slough. 
Marcia Rowlinson, ABC to Read CEO, said: ‘It is absolutely crucial to address the education gap caused by Covid-19, to improve the future prospects of our local youngsters. Our volunteers are a critical part of the recovery process at this difficult time, bridging that gap and inspiring a love of reading, and we are ever grateful for the ongoing support of BCF in helping us impact as many Berkshire children as we can.’
On average, 500 children are encouraged and mentored by an ABC to Read volunteer every year, with 12,000 hours invested into improving not only their reading ability but their enjoyment of the pastime as well as their general attitudes and confidence.
With many vacancies that could be filled with more volunteers and increasing numbers of children who need catch-up support as schools have re-opened, ABC to Read are actively looking for new volunteers to take part in training this year, likely to be September and November. Schools that are in need of additional reading support are also being actively encouraged to sign up for ABC to Read mentors. For more information about training days or joining the scheme as a school or volunteer mentor, contact: email@example.com.
-  National curriculum assessments at Key Stage 2 in England, 2019 (provisional), updated 13th December 2019, Department for Education
-  OECD 2013
-  The Reading Agency
-  Berkshire Community Foundation Vital Signs Report 2019
About ABC to Read
ABC to Read trains and supports volunteers in primary schools across Berkshire, helping hundreds of children each year to enjoy reading and gain an essential skill for life. The charity has maintained around 120 volunteers working with 500 children each year to improve their reading skills. The children are chosen by the schools as those in most need of reading support. The volunteers are selected by the charity and are DBS checked, trained and supported. ABC to Read are currently campaigning to increase awareness of their work in order to reach more Berkshire children. More information can be found at www.abctoread.org.uk.