Making time

24th March 1995 at 00:00
How to Spend Your Half-an-Hour, Pounds 21 including postage.Hertsmedia Production for Volunteer Reading Help, Room 438, High Holborn House, 4951 Bedford Row, London WC1V 6RL.

Volunteer Reading Help has 23 years' experience in recruiting and training volunteers to help children with reading in primary schools, and has done much to refine the role of the volunteer and to equip the adults it recruits from the general public to fill it.

This training video is focused on the work of three volunteers: Lyn, who is experienced and has been working with the children in the programme for some time; David, who is new to the work and is shown on his first session with two pupils; and Alison, who is shown working with a girl who has grown in fluency, and who concentrates on ensuring that she understands what she is reading.

Both volunteers and children are shown enjoying purposeful work, and the programme is carefully edited to demonstrate the principles behind it, described in the notes as "choice, negotiation, fun and success". The volunteers do not pretend to be teachers, but offer each child two self-contained learning experiences each week, often in the school library but never in the classroom. They bring their own attractive selection of books and games for the children to choose from, put together a mixture of reading and other activities to suit the interests of each child, and concentrate as much on building constructive and friendly relationships with the children as on teaching them.

Thus we see David having his pupil, Michael, show him around the school to put the child in a position of knowing more than the adult, and taking time during the first session to tell Michael about himself. Lyn shows how such relationships contribute to effective learning, using a sensitive and intelligent approach to helping an eight-year-old read, with a variety of teaching and prompting techniques, rounded off with a game of "Concept Snap", in which her pupil's spoken language appears to grow before one's eyes.

This video is a good illustration of the difference between a training resource and a television programme, and the trainer is encouraged to pause frequently to allow discussion, so that its relatively short running time (18 minutes) does not limit its usefulness. One frustration is the reference in the notes to VRH's excellent Volunteer's Handbook, which is only available to those attending its own courses. The video can be highly recommended as it stands, but with the handbook would be irresistible.

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