Teenagers volunteer as ‘Reading Buddies’ to help East End children to love books

Reading 'buddies' from Bow's Central Foundation Secondary with children from Old Ford Primary

Reading 'buddies' from Bow's Central Foundation Secondary with children from Old Ford Primary - Credit: TH Education-Business Partnership

Teenagers are volunteering as reading ‘buddies’ for primary schoolchildren in London’s East End as a way of building self-confidence and giving something back to their deprived communities.

Sixthformers from Bow’s Central Foundation Secondary get training from Tower Hamlets Educational Business Partnership to be sent to a local primary school for an hour a week to help the youngsters with their reading.

The ‘Reading Buddy’ programme began at Old Ford Primary when the sixth-formers start sessions reading to small groups, then inviting questions about the book that has been chosen.

“I was apprehensive about working with young children,” one of the teenage ‘buddies’, Masuma Chowdhury, admitted. “But I soon built up a relationship with the kids I worked with.

“One of the best things as you arrive is when they run up to you asking what book we’ll be reading next.”

Masuma had been adamant she would never go into teaching, but was now thinking about a career in education.

Fahima Yaseen was also apprehensive, but her confidence grew. She said: “Working with children is rewarding. I read with Reception class to encourage them to pick up a book anytime they want.”

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Their classmate Sheuli Akthar revealed that the scheme has helped her “grow as an individual and develop communication skills with children”.

There are now 50 Central Foundation sixth-formers who have put their names down to take part in the next Reading Buddies training next term, while 17 are currently involved in the support scheme at the moment.

Two more primary schools have also joined the project, Malmesbury and Olga.

Wahida Swaleh revealed after taking part: “I did something which was less about my A-Levels and more about giving back to the community.”

Classmate Samia Aziz said: “It has given me an insight into working with children and has made me consider this as a career.”

Papia Kabir, who had been a pupil at Old Ford herself, recalled: “It allowed me to give back something to my old primary school.”

The Reading Buddy scheme also helps the volunteers with their own career development and gives them teaching skill experience.

Ruhina Begum points out: “Reading to children takes confidence and patience, as they have a short attention span. You need confidence to take control and direct them back to the task.”

She added: “But watching them improve made it all worthwhile.”