The Reader celebrates Investing in Volunteers award
'This is probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The connectedness you get with other human beings is quite incredible. Remarkable - just through one story or one poem.'
Volunteer Reader Leader
The Reader has been awarded the Investing in Volunteers (IiV) kitemark – the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management.
The IiV award recognises the quality of support that The Reader offers to all its volunteers and its commitment to providing meaningful volunteering opportunities that are open to all.
Over 1000 volunteers currently support The Reader in its mission to bring about a Reading Revolution so that more people can enjoy and experience literature’s life-supporting benefits.
Together, they are the beating heart of the Shared Reading movement that brings people together on a weekly basis, helping to tackle social isolation, improve wellbeing and build communities.
All the team at The Reader would like to say a huge thank you to this amazing network of individuals for everything they do – week in, week out for people and for literature, from Boston to Belfast, London to Liverpool and everywhere in between.
During the coronavirus crisis, the in-person Shared Reading groups usually run by volunteers in libraries, cafés, care homes, hospitals and community centres have paused, but many volunteers have continued to read with their groups by other means.
Ruksana Lad, a volunteer Reader Leader in London, said “My group usually meets at branch of John Lewis in West London on Monday mornings to read short stories and poetry together.
“During lockdown the majority of the group – about 13-15 people – continued meeting via Zoom or Skype. I have two readers who regularly come to my John Lewis group who didn’t have access to the Internet and live alone or in sheltered accommodation, so I read poetry with them over the phone on Wednesdays.”
Throughout COVID-19, The Reader has supported volunteers, like Ruksana, by providing practical training on how to deliver Shared Reading remotely – from helping them to navigate Zoom, to running workshops on online safeguarding and providing reading resources for virtual or telephone-based reading sessions.
The Reader has also supported the wellbeing of its volunteers by running online Shared Reading groups just for them – data gathered in 2019 showed that 84% of people volunteering with The Reader said it had ‘improved my wellbeing’.
One volunteer told the IiV assessors: ‘What’s really impressed me is that during lockdown the Reader has been really important to me personally. They have used the opportunity to get Reader Leaders together online. You can get ideas from others, share ideas about readings - I think they have really used the time wisely.'
Zoe Gilling, Director of People and Shared Reading Programmes, said: “The Reader wouldn’t be where it is today without the contribution and enthusiasm of its volunteers. Achieving the IiV kitemark is a formal recognition of their contribution and highlights our commitment to providing each of them with a kind and purposeful volunteering experience. We’d like to thank all volunteers – old and new – for their hard work and dedication to The Reader.”
The Investing in Volunteers quality standard is made up of nine indicators which are designed to assess all aspects of an organisation’s volunteer management, including volunteer involvement, recruitment, diversity, development and support. To find out more, visit https://iiv.investinginvolunteers.org.uk/.