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Wizards of Words

Wizards of Words is an evidence-based reading programme for children in first and second class in primary school who are 12 months behind their age group in their reading. It aims to improve the children’s reading ability, as well as their enjoyment and love of reading.

Children enjoy and benefit greatly from having someone to read with them. Wizard of Words volunteers are over 55 years of age, from the local community and deliver the Wizard of Words paired reading programme in identified schools, during the school day.

The volunteers are trained by Barnardos and have full Garda clearance. They come from a variety of backgrounds, professionals and homemakers, and are chosen for their love of reading as well as their interest in working with children.

Wizards of Words is based on US research into the Experience Corps programme. Experience Corps measured the impact on volunteers who were over 50 years of age and the benefits to them. Barnardos focused on the impact on children but recognised that the intergenerational piece would be good for both the children and volunteers, so kept it as a key part of the programme. Barnardos’ evaluation showed Wizards of Words had a positive impact on children’s reading skills.

Teachers nominate children from first and second class, who are not already receiving resource hours, for extra reading support. The volunteers meet with the children on a one-to-one basis, three times a week, for 30 minutes during school hours. They read specific stories with them while giving them individual reading instruction and support.

The trained volunteers read with the children using the Oxford Reading Tree book scheme following the characters of Biff, Chip and Kipper through various adventures.

The one-to-one reading sessions are made up of pre-reading, reading and an activity. It uses a balanced literacy approach, focussing on comprehension, fluency, phonics and vocabulary.

The Barnardos project leader trains and supports the volunteers to carry out the programme, monitors the children’s progress and works closely with the schools to make sure the programme runs smoothly.

Volunteer Tutors

Wizards of Words is always happy to hear from people interested in volunteering in the Dublin area. 

Wizards of Words volunteers:

  • are aged 55 or over and have full Garda clearance
  • come from a variety of backgrounds (professionals and homemakers); teaching experience is not required
  • must be willing to volunteer for up to 6 hours a week for the full academic year and participate in ongoing training
  • need to love reading and enjoy working with children – as Wizards of Words aims to improve children’s reading ability, their enjoyment and love of reading, as well as their self-confidence, the relationship between the volunteers and the children is very important

Volunteers will be fully trained by Barnardos in the Wizards of Words evidence-based reading programme for children, and will be supported by the Project Leader in their role. If you are interested, please contact our volunteer coordinator Suzanne on [email protected] or call 01-4530355.

What Volunteers Say

"I had recently retired, and I was looking for something to do and I wanted to do something with a little bit of meaning. A friend of mine told me about Barnardos and the minute she said it I thought this is brilliant, this Wizards of Words programme sounds perfect and I haven’t looked back since, it is wonderful."

"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."

"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."

What Schools Say

"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"

"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."

"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 and 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"

Wizards of Words Evaluation - Executive Summary

An evaluation of the Wizards of Words programme was published by the Child and Family Research Centre (CFRC) at NUI Galway in 2012. The Executive Summary describes the ways in which WoW participants made gains across a range of domains.

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