Projects dates: April 2019 until April 2021
Tell us briefly about your programme/project and who it is for
Our aim was to improve literacy levels by recruiting and training a team of 50 volunteer Literacy Champions, from a wide range of backgrounds, to work in their communities. These volunteers are the ones who best understand the places they live and know what will work.
Prior to lockdown we had 64 Literacy Champions working out in the community. During lockdown we adapted and created Digital Literacy Champions - we now have 38, 17 are from the original Literacy Champions we recruited, 21 are new. The Literacy Champions all vary in their approaches; from parents who engage other parents at the school gates and share books with them through to a volunteer at a food bank who engages families and shares books when distributing food parcels. The Digital Literacy Champions spread the word to friends, families and local networks, by being role models and bringing our ideas to life, creating online content and creating online/virtual networks.
What excites you most about this project?
I love working with children and families and especially empowering them to help others. I also love seeing the Literacy Champions getting recognition and how it boosts their confidence and self-esteem. One lady who is very shy has come into her own during lockdown and is happy to talk on WhatsApp and share videos of her reading on Facebook.
What’s your top tip for engaging with children and young people?
I don’t work directly with children and young people, but for the Literacy Volunteers (who are all over 18 years) being approachable and available is important. We’ve been using WhatsApp to share photos, videos etc. it’s less formal, they feel comfortable using it. Although I only work office hours, WhatsApp enables them to share information, queries or worries whenever they need to, I can respond when I’m at work.
As this is an ongoing project, how has it been affected by Covid-19 and the lockdown?
COVID-19 and lockdown meant most Literacy Champions were unable to go out and about in the community, we supported them to become Digital Literacy Champions to reach their communities through online and virtual activities. They have been sharing and signposting resources to help and support families and communities in reading and home-school learning, such as National Literacy Trust’s ‘Family Zone’ - a primary resource to support families with children 0-12 years and our new Read On Nottingham Facebook page
Have you tried new ways of working/collaborating during this project?
Our Digital Literacy Champions have responded to COVID-19 by creating online resources to inspire other families. Some of have recorded themselves reading stories, for example, one volunteer has read stories in Urdu which we have shared on our Facebook page. Others examples of Literacy Champion work that we have shared on social media, range from creating children’s quizzes about books for families to use at home, sharing baking recipes with photos to one Literacy Champion creating her own book to support her child’s understanding of the current situation.
Not everyone can access information digitally, for example, one Digital Literacy Champion who also volunteers at a Foodbank put out a plea on the WhatsApp group asking for books for a family without internet access. Another Digital Literacy Champion responded by delivering books to her the next day!
As a charity, we are reliant on donations of books and magazines from publishers and corporate benefactors who provide funding for books for particular groups and projects. We have been co-ordinating the distribution of books and children's activity comics when few children have been able to access school and many do not have regular access to online resources.
Our volunteer literacy champions, community partners and foodbanks help to distribute the books, comics and activity packs as widely and fairly across Nottingham City as possible.
Are you using new technologies to bring in more people?
COVID-19 and the lockdown meant that our Digital Literacy Champions have been creative in using new technology to carry on working. They’ve created WhatsApp groups to share ideas, virtual support groups for family and friends, inspiring others to use technology, such as holding a Storytime Zoom with Grandma or a sing-along on Facetime between cousins.