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Smithills Year 8 Reading Champions

The Reading Challenge is a peer mentoring reading intervention programme, where Year 12 volunteers are paired with Year 8 pupils to undertake a programme of one to one reading. The strategies selected are based on Year 8s' strengths and weaknesses in reading. The coaching is personalised, looking at reading strategies, helping students to select books, encouraging pupils to read for pleasure and enabling them to develop their reading skills.


This scheme aims to develop pupil’s confidence and ability in their reading, both to themselves and out loud.  Reading is a skill, vital both in the classroom and outside and student volunteers assist these children through more and more difficult words.

Smithills has a coloured scale of reading difficulty in fiction books.  The volunteers task was to assess what level their pupil was at and over the course of a school year, help them improve their reading so that they were confident enough to select a more difficult book. They would then review pupils level. 


The project was established initially to meet Bolton School's desire to find volunteering opportunities for its students. Through staff links, Smithills School communicated that reading support would be valuable.


Initial setup requires flexibility on the timetable to allow Year 12 students to leave school in study periods to travel to the partner school. There are two staff co-ordinations (one in each school) that set up the rota, communicate school holiday/educational commitments and absences. DBS paperwork is required for student volunteers. The project is funded by the school's Community Action budget, but this is minimal and covers the cost of return taxi journeys for groups of students.


Fundamentally, the project is designed to develop confidence and enjoyment in reading. Both reader and mentor develop their communication skills and trust in each other. Volunteers develop patience and commitment to the project. Progress in reading is by monitoring the level of book the student is able to read and appreciate, which is monitored from the start to the end of the academic year. 

Quote from student volunteer - 

"My own experiences were quite successful with my pupil progressing from green and orange stickers – like Roald Dahl – to purple and navy stickers, for example, The Hunger Games and The Chronicles of Narnia, by the end of my mentoring.  Her confidence in her abilities grew significantly but as much as the sessions helped her progress, I also found volunteering taught me several skills as well".

Pupil Involvement

Student volunteers are in Year 12 (girls and boys) aged 16-17 years old. The project has between 10-15 volunteers in the group each year.

Readers in the partner school are in Year 8.


Year 12 Students volunteer once a week for up to 2 hours for the academic year.