This is Share a Story month and I've been thinking about all the children Learn to Love to Read has supported over the years: children who were finding reading challenging and needed a bit of extra help to become confident readers who could access stories independently, with all the joy and inspiration that brings.
Since our launch, Learn to Love to Read has always worked in three key areas: supporting primary school children in the early stages of reading; running early years classes for pre-schoolers to help them be ready to read when they start school; and equipping and encouraging parents to support their children's reading at home.
I have such happy memories of running our early years classes in schools before lockdown. One of the most uplifting activities was when we would spread out a colourful selection of picture books across the floor so children had the excitement of free choice, and give mums and dads and their toddlers time to cuddle up and enjoy a story together. The gentle buzz of children chatting and parents talking about the pictures, often in multiple languages, always made me smile.
And who can forget the joyful chaos of our Story and Craft events, where we shared a story with families who then enthusiastically enjoyed craft activities based on the story. It was always wonderful to meet the parents of children we had been supporting in school, and lovely to see whole families, parents and siblings of all ages, enjoying stories together.
More recently there was Taysia, one of the 1,350 families we shared Reading for Pleasure packs with over lockdown. We were delighted to be able to also arrange an online event with the author of her favourite book from that pack when schools reopened.
Then there was seven-year-old Erika, whose father Sabino told us she was always ready and waiting half an hour early for her online reading session every week during lockdown.
And Betty and her three children. Betty told us that when she got involved with Learn to Love to Read 'everything changed' for her whole family as together they gained confidence and a love of reading.
I've got wonderful memories of the families we've worked with, but I'm ambitious for us to do more: the need is so great. Education Endowment Foundation projections suggest that school closures have significantly widened the attainment gap between disadvantaged children and their peers.
We want to do our part: to share our love of stories with more Wandsworth children; to work with more schools, more families, more partner organisations.
For that we need more volunteers, more funding and more support.
If you'd like to get involved, please get in touch.