Running a reading group safely and smartly
Whether a reading club is small or large, it needs to be a safe space for the children who attend as well as for volunteers and visitors. Here are some guidelines to help you run a reading club that does all it can to protect everyone concerned.
- Make sure the venue is safe and child friendly. For example, no poisonous substances, dangerous equipment or exposed wires should be in reach of any children.
- Toilets must be clean and toilet paper available at every session, as well as soap and water for
- Everyone needs access to fresh water at every session.
2. Permissions and Indemnities
Parent or guardian’s written permission must be obtained:
- To confirm their children’s attendance at the reading club. This form should include the operation times of the club (what time the session begins and ends), the day(s) of the week when the reading club meets and a contact number for the reading club organiser and the parent or guardian to be reached in case of an emergency.
- For special events or occasions, to appear in reading club photos and video material, going on outings, etc.
Make sure parents/guardians know that:
- They are responsible for transporting children to and from the reading club.
- They are responsible for providing information about allergies, chronic illness (asthma, epilepsy, etc.) to the reading club organisers or volunteers.
- Children without indemnity forms cannot travel/go on outings.
- Very young children must be accompanied to the reading club by older siblings or guardians.
- While organisers of the club and volunteers will do everything possible to help the children arrive and leave safely, they are only responsible for the safety of the children at the reading club. It is ultimately the responsibility of the parent or guardian to ensure their child is attending the reading club.
- Parents /guardians are aware they can attend reading club sessions and that their involvement is encouraged.
3. Valuables and Money
- There should be no exchange of monies between children & volunteers, children & children for reading club access or activities.
- The reading club cannot be held responsible for loss or thefts during sessions.
4. General Safety and Wellbeing
- Make sure you know who is attending each session: keep a written register of all children attending each session.
- Close (or lock) gates/doors once your session has begun, at an agreed upon time to avoid strangers walking in.
- Make sure all equipment and supplies are secure.
- Never leave children alone without trusted adult supervision.
- A trusted adult or older child should take younger ones to the toilet and assist them if necessary.
- Provide the children with a snack and a drink if the session lasts longer than an hour.
- Watch carefully for children who may not hear or see well and inform parents if you are concerned that they need hearing or eye tests.
5. First Aid
- Always have a fully stocked first-aid kit on the premises. At least one person should know where it is, what’s in it and how to use it too.
- Display up-to-date details of local emergency services.
- Keep a list of children with allergies, chronic illness (asthma, epilepsy, etc.) & the contact details of their parents/guardians.
- Volunteers should not be expected to give medicine to children.
- Meet new volunteers before they attend reading club sessions to find out about them and assess their experience and interest.
- Take on new volunteers on recommendation from others you trust and find out about new volunteers from trusted community members.
- Mentor and support new volunteers until you are sure they know how to interact appropriately with the children of different ages.
- Let new volunteers work alongside more experienced ones who know the ropes until they are confident.
Volunteers need to:
- Agree to the rules of the club.
- Be first to arrive & last to leave.
- Reading clubs use positive reinforcement and role modelling. Children and adults attend voluntarily and are expected to treat one another with respect and care.
- Reading clubs tolerate no physical aggression or bullying of any kind by volunteers or children. No corporal punishment is used.
- If children or volunteers misbehave, send them home. (Ask them to come back another day if you feel this is appropriate). This is the most severe discipline we give at reading clubs.
Welcome visitors who want to find out about how reading clubs work, but ask them to observe the following:
- Arrange visits in advance with reading club organisers
- Become aware of the rules of the club and conform to these
- Ask permission to share their use of photos and videos.
- The reading clubs cannot be held responsible for loss or theft of valuables.
To download and share safety guidelines with your reading club or volunteers, visit our Resource section here.