Time to Read

One in ten children in Irish schools has serious difficulty with reading.  In disadvantaged schools, this can be as high as one in three. The Time to Read literacy programme was developed in 2013 by Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI) to help address this serious social problem whilst at the same time providing a worthwhile employee engagement activity for businesses.

BITCI is the network for responsible business. We work with Ireland’s leading companies on addressing key educational issues. From tackling the retention rate in post-primary schools to fostering a pipeline of talent, we work with hundreds of companies and DEIS schools all over Ireland to create mutually beneficial and lasting partnerships. Our Time to Read programme appeals to companies that want to make a difference in their local community, realise the benefits of offering their employees a fulfilling volunteering opportunity and see the long-term positive effects of helping children to enjoy reading.

The Time to Read programme is currently being sponsored by an anonymous donor and by the participating businesses. The programme has been developed, piloted and evaluated with rigour and is a proven model for improving children’s literacy levels. At the moment there are 47 company-school partnerships involved in the programme across Ireland, from Donegal to Cork and Wexford.

The programme involves business volunteers reading with children in a local primary school once a week over 20 weeks (volunteers do 10 weeks each). The volunteer’s job is to read with the children and to praise and encourage them to read more for their own enjoyment. An important element of the programme is the workplace visit when the children visit their volunteers’ workplace which gives them an insight into the world of work and has been proven to raise their aspirations. The volunteers, children and their parents/ guardians also attend a library visit together to show the children the wonderful free resources available to them and show them a place where they can continue to access books once the programme has finished.

Previous participating companies have all felt that it was enjoyable and extremely worthwhile; an individual from a such a company recently commented that “It’s great for an organisation in terms of staff engagement – our volunteers enjoy the opportunity to participate and bring great positivity and enthusiasm back to our workplace – and we all benefit from that.”

Furthermore, this year ESB introduced their seventh Time to Read partnership, and currently, 80 of their staff are taking part in a number of locations in Dublin, Cork and Wexford.

 Eibhlín McGarry, Principal at St Mary’s Girls National School, partnered with ESB  adds: “The Time to Read initiative not only gives our children the valuable opportunity to improve their reading fluency and comprehension but the warm, caring, positive environment in which the programme is presented opens up a world of interest in and love for reading in the long term.”

 It is our ambition to have at least 55 businesses involved in Time to Read by the end of 2018 so we can reach more children across Ireland. Get in touch to see how your company can help a child read, grow and succeed. Please contact us at the following details should you be interested in further information: Germaine Noonan, 01 874 3813 or gnoonan@bitc.ie.

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