What We Do

ReadUP started with a simple idea — when kids are matched with books that are just right for their skill level, they are successful at reading. That success motivates them to read more. And the more they read, the better they get.

At ReadUP, kids are given three books that match their ability and read them to a volunteer. Then they take them home in a book bag to practise reading over the next week.

The program started in 2005, then called the Book Bag and Reading Club. It was the brainchild of Sheilah Currie, a children’s author and literacy teacher. She wanted to get right into communities to give children a boost with their reading skills. She started a weekly reading club at Toronto’s Eastview Neighbourhood Community Centre.

It proved popular, so Sheilah started a second club the next year and was soon serving 200 children, many from newcomer families.

ReadUP has grown to eight clubs in Toronto. Now children from her first reading club have come back as volunteers, helping a new generation learn to read.

ReadUP wouldn’t be the success it is today without the more than 100 volunteers who, over the years, have helped children discover a love of reading. The volunteers chat with children about the story and help with tricky words, but there is no direct teaching involved — all phonics and spelling instruction is left to the schools. ReadUP is meant to complement the literacy learned in the classroom and make reading fun.

As usual with volunteering, you reap what you sow. ReadUP has gone beyond literacy, creating bonds between the kids, volunteers, staff and parents. It strengthens community.

ReadUP’s volunteers come from all walks of life — university students who plan to go to teacher’s college, high school students earning their community service credits, business professionals, neighbours, seniors, older siblings, and parents of participants.

Learning often spreads beyond the children. Many parents are spending more time with books at home, either reading aloud to their preschoolers, or listening as their school-age children read to them.

Literacy is a basic life skill that affects a child’s academic success and has a major influence on his/her socioeconomic future. ReadUP seeks to close the achievement gap that exists between at-risk children and children who are not at risk.