A CHARITY helping children who are struggling to learn to read has put out an urgent appeal for more volunteers to join its work.

ARCh (Assisted Reading for Children) trains and supports volunteers to work one-to-one with primary school children to help inspire a love of books.

It works with more than 100 schools around Oxfordshire, but since the start of the year an increase in the waiting list has meant more helpers are urgently needed.

It comes after the charity was awarded a £3,900 grant by the Gannett Foundation at the start of the year.

ARCh development manager Jane Rendle, who has been with the charity since it started eight years ago, said: “We are looking for volunteers who will aim to share a love of reading through playing games, communicating with the children and introducing new books.

“We have children chosen by the school to join us for a variety of reasons.”

Volunteers would spend about an hour twice a week at a nearby primary school, working with the same three children for a year.

There are about 30 schools on the Bicester-based charity’s waiting list, and volunteers are badly needed in areas including East Oxford and Blackbird Leys.

Ms Rendle added: “Sometimes for volunteers it is about finding that special book that hooks the child into loving reading. They might be interested in a certain subject so we aim to find a book that will suit that.

“It is all about confidence building. We find there is a great change at the end of the year, and we hope the sessions improve the child’s life prospects.

“Schools have said how delighted they are in terms of the improvement of reading and the children’s confidence and attitude.”

The grant by the Gannett Foundation – the charitable arm of the Oxford Mail’s parent company Gannett – has allowed the charity to buy hundreds of new books.

All volunteers are given a box of books and games chosen to help interest children in reading.

Members will then meet regularly to swap their resources, chat to each others, and share ideas and experiences of volunteering. Meetings take place in Kidlington, Abingdon, Bicester, Witney and Banbury, with training courses for volunteers being held in May.

The charity is also looking for businesses to get involved, by releasing staff for a couple of hours a week to volunteer in schools.

* See archoxfordshire.org.uk for more information