The event, at Moor Park Sports and Social Club, Fulwood, saw 22 volunteers and supporters gather in person to hear first-hand from Reading Coaches and Management about the impact of their life-changing work.
Group founder Rachel Coupe, who organised the event, said: "I wanted to say a massive thank-you in person to all our volunteers, supporters and sponsors who have got us to this point, so our birthday seemed the ideal occasion. We began the group in lockdown so some volunteers have only met a handful of others. Its so important that those joining us feel appreciated and included and we need to listen and learn from one another to carry on improving our service."
Guest speakers described their personal experiences with Read Easy and the transformative impact that the learning process has on the Coaches, the Readers and their families and friends.
Literacy Specialist and Reading Coach, Alison Lay, explained how having dyslexic tendencies herself allows her to understand the Readers' difficulties, spot their strengths and steer them in the right direction. She told of how she separately coaches two adult learners who have very different backgrounds but both have now made progress on the phonics-based reading programme in just a few months, with Alison's help.
Coordinator Rachel Pearson, who also made the showstopper cake for the occasion, spoke emotionally about how her involvement since last May has changed her life. "Standing up and talking at this event as a key part of the Preston team was unimaginable to me a year ago, having lost self-confidence following my own health battles." Now using her organisational and people skills to manage up to eight reading pairs, she has increased self-esteem and realises she has a lot to offer other people.
As the first contact for potential new Readers, Rachel gets immense satisfaction from noting the visible changes in the adults, who often feel embarrassed, written off and too old to learn when they first meet. Rachel and fellow Coordinator Kathryn, make new learners feel comfortable enough to try the free, confidential, twice-weekly coaching sessions with a trained volunteer. Once on board, Readers look happier, walk taller and are excited to receive certificates as they make progress.
Taking that first step is the hardest part, Karen Wood from national charity Read Easy UK told attendees. Karen stressed that teaching someone to read not only affects that person but the effects ripple out, allowing them to read to their children, learn to drive, be independent and participate in the online world that most if us take for granted. Karen praised the Preston group for their determination and teamwork and spoke about her efforts to bring this model to other parts of the North West.
Read Easy trains volunteers, who need no prior experience, and pairs them with an adult learner for twice-weekly coaching sessions in an approved local venue such as a library or community centre. They welcome inquiries from new Readers or volunteers.