Whether it was loving parents or a kind teacher, or both, each of us was patiently helped along the way until we were able to read for ourselves. However, research from the National Literacy Trust suggests that a fifth of 5-8 year olds in the UK do not own a single book of their own.
It was with such notions in mind that we, at MMP Tax, nominated Doorstep Library as our chosen charity for the year, which seeks to extend the gift of reading to children who, for whatever reason, don't have access to books and struggle to read. Each week, pairs of the charity's volunteers visit a home across London reading stories to the children, lending them books and helping connect the family to their local community.
"Comprehensive studies have shown that the UK is one of the most unforgiving countries in the developed world when it comes to the literacy of economically disadvantaged families," says Olivia Rawnsley, Voluntary Engagement Manager at the charity, adding: "With one in four children going to secondary school unable to read properly, it's crucial that Doorstep Library operates. We are able to read with families on a weekly basis, offering support and books for families to access so that they can enjoy reading outside of our sessions and outside of school."
In 2008, with funding from All Saints Church Fulham, and coordinated by the anti-poverty non-profit organisation ATD Fourth World; Doorstep Library was initially run as a pilot project in Hammersmith & Fulham. The successful pilot led to the launch of Doorstep Library as a charity two years later with the local council stepping up to provide financial support.
At the end of 2022, there are 16 reading projects across Greater London with well over 1,300 disadvantaged children having so far benefited from Doorstep Library. Not short on families that seek to utilise the services, the charity is constantly on the look out for those willing to give an evening of their time to read with local children.
"We are struggling at the moment to recruit volunteers," admits Olivia. "Although the number of applications is increasing steadily, we are not recruiting enough so that our current families can be visited every week by volunteers. By spreading the word to friends and families, will help us find more willing readers."
Experience of working with children is not necessary to be a reading volunteer. Rather, in addition to being fluent in English and respectful of different lifestyles, all that is required is a simple love of reading and a desire to pass it on.
"Being a reading volunteer is actually incredibly fun. You get to share your passion for books and reading, while helping children to also get excited and enjoy reading," she says.
MMP Tax is looking to support Doorstep Library where we can. During the past year, staff members individually purchased and donated a number of books to the charity which were distributed across the boroughs. We are working with Doorstep Library to provide a team to sort and file books that have been donated.