When you struggle to read and write, everything from accessing services, to getting a job, to being an active member of society becomes a challenge. It leads to higher rates of unemployment, lower income levels and can have a detrimental impact on self-esteem and in turn life chances. By training volunteer customers and One Manchester staff as ‘literacy champions’, the Literacy Beacons Project provides one-to-one support in an informal setting to help people build confidence with their reading and writing. The impact on both learners and champions has been huge.
Established in 2012 after our staff noticed customers struggling to complete forms, we worked closely with the National Literacy Trust to develop a project which would address literacy issues in an informal and empowering way, improving the skills and confidence of both learners and champions.
People wanting to improve their reading and writing are matched up with trained literacy champions and after an initial chat to find out what the learner wants to get out of the sessions, the learners and champions meet somewhere handy for an hour a week for six weeks.
From reading the alphabet to being able to write a shopping list, the champion works to help the learner achieve their goal, building their confidence along the way. The project has gained national recognition for the difference it’s making to people’s lives with both learners and champions gaining new skills and confidence helping many to move into training and employment. Winning the Business in the Community Awards in 2013, shortlisted in the National Housing Federation’s Community Impact Awards and winning the national TPAS Excellence in Community Action Award in 2015, the Literacy Beacons project continues to go from strength-to-strength.
"The Literacy Beacons project has really changed my life. Day-to-day tasks which I used to find very difficult, like reading leaflets and signs, are now much easier. The one-to-one sessions have built up my confidence and I’m now enrolled on a college course which I really enjoy."
Chris Fay, literacy learner
"I had one learner who couldn’t read the alphabet at first. However, after five sessions she can now write her own shopping list and read basic books."
Molly Dunn, literacy champion
"The Literacy Beacons project has helped me turn my life around."
Literacy learner who was a service user and is now a volunteer at Justlife, who support people close to the streets
The Literacy Beacons project has really changed my life. Day-to-day tasks which I used to find very difficult, like reading leaflets and signs, are now much easier.