Celebrating an extraordinary year 

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Time to Count and Time to Read programmes with Lionbridge and Scoil Íosa, Co. Mayo


Thanks to a fantastic team effort by the volunteers at Lionbridge, and the staff of Scoil Íosa Ballina,  children and volunteers were able to take part in both Time to Read and Time to Count this year, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Ironically, given those challenges, all the school staff said that the programmes had even more impact this year on the children and families. While the children were isolated and cut off from their teachers and friends it was particularly impactful for them to have these experiences developing their literacy, numeracy and digital skills and being shown how valued they are by their community. 

Michael Tunney, School Principal“The children and the parents love the programme. We strongly value the positive relationship that develops between the volunteers and the children. The Time to Count programme helped the children to see the potential for fun in learning mathematical concepts. It also helped us to create stronger connections with families during the lock down. We believe the parents were so pleased to see the extra effort invested in their children when the school was closed.  Programmes such as a Time to Read and Time to Count make our families feel valued and important.” 

Bernie McGoldrick, Home School Liaison Teacher in Scoil Íosa describes her experience:  

I have organised the Time to Read programme in Scoil Iosa for the past five years. However, this year was like no other. We had to reimagine things and think outside the box! Setting up a virtual reading programme with a group of children and a group of adults all living in separate houses, indeed separate counties was not something I had any experience of! 

There were a few teething problems with lack of technology and limited IT skills quickly becoming apparent. In many houses, there was only one device, usually a phone and this had to be shared between a number of children for home schooling. Poor broadband, or in some cases, no broadband was another challenge. We had to organise the provision of mobile data and in one case, a parent got the internet installed in his house to facilitate his daughter engaging in the programme. We also decided to give a chrome book to every child who was taking part in the Time to Read Programme. We were like Santa Claus as we arrived to houses with lovely Time to Read books and the chrome books!   

I think these supports gave the children and the parents a lift and it enabled the Principal and myself to check in with families in a very meaningful way. Never was it more important to keep the lines of communication open between the HSCL coordinator and the families especially some of the most vulnerable and those most adversely affected by the lockdown. Organising the Time to Read Programme gave me an avenue to make face-to-face contact which in my opinion was much more effective that telephone calls or online contact. 

Both the Principal and myself supported the parents to set up and connect to Google meet.  I have to say I was very impressed with the level of commitment and gratitude of the parents but some really struggled with the technology. Despite all the challenges, we got the programme up and running and the children logged on and met with their volunteers every Tuesday morning. A few parents told me that the children bounced out of their beds early on Tuesdays! All the challenges and frustration in the initial set up were worth it to see the children chatting with the volunteers and telling them about their dog or cat! It was lovely to observe the beautiful relationships that evolved between the volunteers and the children.

In my opinion the interest and genuine support given to the children by the volunteers was as much, if not more, important than the support around reading. For some of the children this was the only engagement they had in the week with the school during lockdown.  It was also great to be able to continue with the programme remotely when lockdown lifted and the children got back to the classroom. The wrap up session was very special, indeed at times emotional; I loved the way the volunteers spoke to the children and encouraged them to “follow their dreams”.  

From our point of view as a school, The Time to Read Experience was invaluable as a means of engaging the children and their parents with learning during the lockdown.  Not only did they engage in the reading programme but also it enabled them to connect with their class teacher for other subjects, as they then knew how to use google meet. 

This year above any other year, the programme has gone far beyond its original objectives and has provided a constant nurturing presence in the lives of some of our second-class children. Overall, the experience was invaluable, meaningful and worthwhile.” 

For more information on how to get involved with our programmes, click here.