April 19, 2017, by Words on Words

Student Volunteering: The Literacy Support Project

This blog post was written by first year English student, Georgina Pittman.

Quite honestly, I was overwhelmed by the variety of pathways available for volunteering at the University when I arrived in September 2016. I was, however, certain I wanted to work towards obtaining the Nottingham Advantage Award (NAA). The Literacy Support Project (LSP) immediately stood out as a way of combining community volunteering and the NAA whilst utilising some of the language concepts I was learning in my degree.

Georgina Pittman

Through the scheme, UoN students volunteer a couple of hours each week at primary schools in the Bilborough area with the aim of boosting literacy levels among the pupils. Participation in the NAA is optional, however, so there’s no need to worry if you’d rather avoid the paperwork side of the project. The main difference between the LSP and its NAA module is some minor ‘coursework’ and evening classes that aid the development of your ideas for approaching this. ‘To NAA, or not to NAA’ is a matter of personal preference but I’d say the additional write-ups are easy if completed as you go, so please don’t feel put off by that!

As someone who already had a fair amount of experience in teaching, I was excited to gain an insight into the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of the teaching world. This best happened once the children went home for the day, meaning I had ‘fly on the wall’ access to such things as literacy assessment results, reading log paperwork and parents evening preparations. Unfortunately for me, although my volunteering was most valuable to the children during the school day, I benefitted most from the time spent there after hours, which was obviously a reduced time in comparison. Having said this, though, I loved meeting small creative minds with an eagerness to progress. I think that was also a major benefit of working with a younger age group. My fellow volunteers showed a strong preference for working with older students, but I found that the younger ones seemed more enthusiastic, easier to motivate and less restricted by inhibition than older children.

Surprisingly, one of the major things I learned through volunteering was how to navigate Nottingham’s public transport. It sounds like such a simple thing to get a grasp of but my primary school was the furthest away and I could only take one bus route there. My bus didn’t come onto campus and wasn’t always reliable so it took a few weeks to adapt to this and to know how best to act when things went wrong.

Although not the most obvious of ways I personally improved through the project, I think independent growth is important to note. Whether through gaining familiarity with public transport, ensuring communication with teachers, or even developing self-motivation in attending the NAA evening sessions or staying on top of the paperwork – all of this experience is useful.

My favourite thing about the project is that, for every one thing a volunteer takes away from the project, each child walks away having learned so much more. Whether you’re looking to contribute to the LSP for personal development or to improve the lives of others, the scheme is undoubtedly rewarding. Granted, working with children isn’t for everybody, but if you never try, how will you know if it’s right for you?

If you’d like to find out more information regarding the project, please email any queries to: english-literacy@nottingham.ac.uk.

Georgina Pittman

Posted in Placements and VolunteeringStudent Words