Words by Smiley Team
A literacy charity has delivered the gift of reading to thousands of Ukrainian refugee children – and now they need your help.
In April, Bookmark Reading, a charity that provides volunteer-led reading support for children, launched an appeal to raise £1 million to supply 5,000 welcome Book Boxes to Ukrainian children, aged 5-9, arriving in the UK.
The boxes include high-quality books in Ukrainian and English, a tablet pre-loaded with multilingual eBooks, literacy and language apps, activities together with a SIM card to stay in touch with family and friends, school stationery sets and sensory games and story-telling aides for therapeutic play.
And now, the charity has delivered over 3,000 boxes to Ukrainian refugee children.
Mykhailo, a Ukrainian father to two young children, arrived in the UK with his wife in April. The children started school in May. Mykhailo said: “My children are very happy with the boxes. Mark’s favourite part of the box is the pencil case because he doesn’t have one for school.”
One of Bookmark’s aims for the boxes was to make sure the Ukrainian children had a starting-school stationery set to make the transition a little easier.
Vodafone UK donated 5,000 SIM cards with 20GB of preloaded data. “This will make a huge difference to these families being able to stay in touch with friends and families displaced around the world,” they said.
The Bookmark Boxes for Ukraine have been distributed through local authorities, schools and community organisations across the UK. Slawek Szczepanski, CEO at Association for Polish Family in Merton said: “The children were so happy receiving the Bookmark Boxes. It was important to us to make the kids smiley, that's what we want to see at the end of the day.
"For us it might be nothing but for these families it is everything."
The charity is now looking for volunteers to sign up and read with children virtually – and they only require one hour a week.
Bookmark volunteers support children aged 5-9 who are identified by teachers as being at risk of not meeting the expected standard of reading. In 2020/21, 86% of teachers from Bookmark partner schools saw an increase in children’s reading confidence and 9/10 volunteers surveyed felt that they had made a positive impact.
To sign up all you need to do is complete their application form, pass DBS and two reference checks and have an interview with the team. You’ll have access to online training to show you how to use the online platform and the best ways to engage your reader.
DONATE: Bookmark are close to reaching their fundraising target of £1 million. If you would like to donate and help them deliver more boxes for Ukrainian children, find out more.
VOLUNTEER: Volunteer with Bookmark for just one hour a week and change a child’s story. Register on their website.