Wizards of Words

An Intergenerational Reading Programme

Wizards of Words (WoW) is a paired literacy improvement programme for children in first and second class in primary school, involving older volunteers. This intergenerational programme model is based on US research of the Experience Corps programme which has demonstrated positive outcomes for children’s reading ability and for the volunteers too. The programme delivers one-to-one tuition during school time and is hosted in the school premises.

Barnardos is running two demonstration WoW programmes in primary schools in Dublin.

How does it work?

Classroom teachers nominate first and second class students for extra reading support with a volunteer. The trained volunteers, who are aged 55 years and over, meet with their nominated children three times a week during school hours to provide individual reading instruction and support. The Barnardos project leader trains and supports the volunteers in the implementation of the programme, monitors the children’s progress and works closely with the schools to ensure the smooth running of the programme.

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Who is Wizards of Words (WoW) for?

The target group for WoW are children in first and second class who are reading approximately 12 months behind their chronological age

What happens in a WoW reading session

Trained volunteers read with the children using the Oxford Reading Tree book scheme three times a week for 30 minutes during the school day. The one-to-one reading sessions consist of pre-reading, reading and a follow-up activity and adopt a balanced literacy approach focussing on comprehension, fluency, phonics and vocabulary.

Who are the volunteers?

Volunteers are aged 55 or over and have full Garda clearance. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, professionals and homemakers, they are recruited on the basis of having a love of reading and an interest in working with children. Teaching experience is not required but they must be willing to volunteer for up to 6 hours a week for the full academic year and participate in ongoing training

Testimonials:

My experience so far has been 100% positive, and I would recommend the programme to anyone who might be thinking of finding out more about volunteering in general and helping children with their reading in particular. – Brian Carroll, WOW volunteer, Limerick

I’m delighted that I stumbled across the Barnardos notice, as I’ve found my role to date most fulfilling. The enthusiasm shown by the children when we collect them from the classroom is heart-warming. An unexpected, but welcome, outcome is the way in which children come to trust us wizards; they treat us as friends. Cathal McCarthy, WOW volunteer, Dublin

It was marvellous to see how enthusiastic they were and how they improved by leaps and bounds. At the end of the year, I felt a great sense of achievement, that I had participated in something worthwhile…“Making a difference.” So I’m looking forward to another year. A.N., Wizard

“The Volunteers are an invaluable resource in our school as they give the children their undivided attention which leads to the improvement in their emotional well being & reading achievement. The relationship between the volunteers and the children is a really positive one and it is a win /win situation for us all. We really appreciate the programme and embrace the partnership whole heartedly.” M., Principal

“I was delighted to hear that the (WoW) project would be continuing in the school and that First Class would be taking part. It gives the children taking part an excellent opportunity to perfect the skills needed to be a good reader.

Back in September many of the children chosen for the project would have lacked confidence in reading and would have had limited strategies for decoding words. They would not have read for pleasure, complaining that the books were too hard. Having been part of the programme for six months now it is amazing the difference in some of the children. They now openly tell you how much they love reading and I have regularly seen the children pick up a book and read to themselves, which is lovely to see. L.G., First class teacher

Our children have really benefitted from it. As well as improving their reading, they have also enjoyed interacting with the volunteers very much. I am delighted that we will be participating in the programme again this year. Many thanks to Barnardos.” S.G, Principal

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