The Better Reading Campaign kicks off


We’ve teamed up with the charity Volunteer Reading Help (VRH) to raise awareness of the issues surrounding children’s literacy and to provide funding to help them achieve their target of supporting 10,000 children by 2016.  Staggeringly, over 88,000 children left primary school last year without reaching the required literacy standard (this equates to 1 in 5 children).

Volunteer Reading Help dedicates itself to reaching out to these young people to give them the opportunity to enjoy reading and learning and have aspirations for the future.

Supporting children’s learning and development is an important goal of our own; though fundamental, a nutritional approach is but one of several ways to support children in achieving their potential. As part of the Better Reading Campaign, we have pledged to donate 50 pence to Volunteer Reading Help from each box sold of our specialist food supplement Vegepa E-EPA 70 Orange Chewables.

The work of Volunteer Reading Help provides essential hands-on support to those children who need it most, through the help of volunteer reading helpers who meet with children on a twice-weekly basis to offer intensive one-to-one assistance with reading. Through the Better Reading Campaign, in partnership with VRH, we hope to:

  • Raise awareness of literacy issues amongst children
  • Raise essential funds to support VRH in expanding its reach by deploying more volunteer reading helpers in schools
  • Contribute to the long-term social and economic benefits brought about by improved reading performance, better confidence, enhanced self-esteem, greater motivation and enthusiasm for learning
  • Contribute to developing a generation of more literate children with greater opportunities in the future, in the workplace, community and their personal lives.

Illiteracy in the UK

The UK may be renowned for its high standards of education, yet a sizeable proportion of schoolchildren don’t meet the required literacy standards. Clearly, there is a large gap in the provision of adequate support for children and young adults who struggle at school. The correlation between illiteracy and underachievement, unemployment and even crime are compelling reasons for urgent action to improve literacy levels in schools.

  • 22% of men and 30% of women with the literacy equivalent of a seven year old live in non-working households ([1])
  • 70% of pupils permanently excluded from school have difficulties in basic literacy skills ([2])
  • 25% of young offenders are said to have reading skills below those of the average seven year old ([3])
  • 60% of the prison population is said to have difficulties in basic literacy skills ([4])
  • 48% of prisoners are at, or below, the level expected of an 11 year old in reading ([5])
  • Only 1 in 5 prisoners are able to complete a job application form ([6])
  • Government figures also show that 48 per cent of those arrested by police were unable to read or write by age 11. ([7])

About Volunteer Reading Help

VRH have been recruiting, training and supporting volunteers since 1973, to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading. VRH are currently working in over 1000 schools and supporting over 6,300 children twice-weekly thanks to the help of 2,138 volunteer reading helpers. By the end of 2016, VRH are aiming to be working with almost 10,000 children with the support of over 3000 reading helpers.

VRH believes that every child deserves the opportunity to develop to their full potential.  The children VRH help are struggling with reading and urgently need one-to-one support to become confident readers who are literate for life. Many are living in households experiencing poverty and hardship, and their time with their reading helper can sometimes be the only one-to-one attention they receive in their lives. The relationship that develops as a result of such intervention almost always has a positive and long lasting impact on their lives.

VRH reading helpers support the same children every week throughout the school year, giving each child an hour of quality, one-to-one time. With access to a library of books and games at their local branch, they can tailor their sessions to best support the children they work with. With the support of VRH a child’s approach to reading and learning is transformed, standards improve and they grow in self-esteem and confidence.

Key facts

  • Throughout 2011/2012, VRH supported nearly 6,400 children, through over 2,100 reading volunteer helpers
  • VRH plans to increase this over 2012/2013 to support over 7,500 children through 2,500 reading helpers
  • VRH aims to be working with almost 10,000 children by the end of 2016 through the help of over 3,000 reading helpers
  • It costs VRH approximately £310 to provide one-to-one support for a child for one year – equivalent to 85 pence a day (this compares to £222 a day to keep someone in prison)

The impact of VRH’s work

Throughout the UK, there are thousands of children struggling with reading and writing. Problems beginning in the classroom may lead to the risk of children being turned off by education, but there are more potential consequences – kids can often become demotivated, depressed, and vulnerable to drifting into bad behaviour, exclusion and even crime.

Without good literacy skills as adults they may well struggle to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members and employees. The potential for poor literacy to have a negative impact on children, and beyond into adulthood in both working and personal lives, is unequivocal.

Together with VRH, we believe that early intervention is the most effective way to address illiteracy in the UK. Recent findings commissioned on behalf of VRH demonstrates the tremendous benefits their work brings to children and their families.

  • 96% of children they worked with showed improved reading performance
  • 96% of children they worked with showed an improved attitude to reading and confidence in reading
  • 96% of children they worked with showed an improvement in overall achievement
  • 94% of children they worked with showed an improvement in general confidence and self esteem
  • 92% of children they worked with showed an improvement in motivation
  • 78% of schools said that they would benefit from having more VRH volunteers

(Developed from an Ecotec survey, 2010)

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