“Mole Valley Life Young Readers” Pilot Launches during Loneliness Awareness Week, 15th – 19th June

Jacky Fyson supporting a Mole Valley Life Young Reader

Mole Valley District Council is delighted to announce the launch of the “Mole Valley Life’s Young Readers” pilot scheme with St John’s C of E Primary School in Dorking and their “LinkUp” project, to mark “Loneliness Awareness Week” this week.

“Mole Valley Life’s Young Readers” project is a remote reading buddy scheme which unites older and vulnerable people within our community with local school children. By matching “Young Reader” volunteers with “Listening Champion” volunteers, the “Young Readers” are given the opportunity to read aloud once a week to an adult over the phone, at school; building their confidence and love of reading, whilst at the same time helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness in the “Listening Champion”.

Rachel O’Reilly, Mole Valley District Council’s Corporate Head of Service for Community said, “As part of our work calling the 4,700 older and vulnerable people that are shielding or choosing to stay indoors in our district and listening to their needs, we noted that many of these people were understandably, experiencing feelings of isolation and loneliness. With many of the Mole Valley Life team having children, or grandchildren who had been out of formal education since the schools closed in March, we were very aware of children missing opportunities to read aloud to an adult. Putting two and two together, we approached St John’s C of E Primary School in Dorking to see if their pupils would benefit from reading to adults over the phone. The answer was a resounding “yes” and the “Mole Valley Life Young Readers” initiative was born!”

The pilot begins today with 5 volunteer “Young Reader” children from St John’s, reading to 5 local volunteer “Listening Champions”, for approximately 10 minutes, once a week.

Jacky Fyson, Head Teacher of St John’s C of E Primary School, Dorking, said of the scheme, “We were delighted to be invited to take part in the pilot for “Mole Valley Life’s Young Readers” project. The values of the scheme align directly with those of our school and build on our partnerships with local older residents and Care Homes. Our “Young Readers” have thoroughly enjoyed selecting their books and are looking forward to reading to their “Listening Champion”. Many of the children have been unable to see their Grandparents due to lock-down, so this is a wonderful opportunity for them to not only practice and improve their reading but to connect with the older generation too. We look forward to watching the children’s literacy and love of reading further flourish over the coming weeks, under the nurturing guidance of Mole Valley Life’s “Listening Champions”.”

Mole Valley District Council’s Cabinet Member for Community, Hazel Watson said, “Loneliness is often a taboo subject and one of the largest health challenges we face, with those that experience loneliness, often encountering poor physical health, mental health, and poor personal wellbeing. Since the outbreak of Coronavirus the potential for loneliness within our community has never been greater, particularly amongst those that are shielding. “Mole Valley Life’s Young Readers” project enables these individuals to interact with and give back to the community, by helping children to practice and hone their reading skills. With reading being a proven key to unlocking a child’s education and future life outcomes, this project works perfectly to unite two generations within our community, to their mutual benefit. By launching this pilot project during Loneliness Awareness Week we hope to further raise the profile of this critical issue within our district and beyond. I am excited to see how the scheme progresses with St John’s C of E Primary School and other local schools as they come on board, as I believe the huge inter-generational benefits will be enduring.”


  • Call 01372 204 500, email youngreaders@molevalley.gov.uk, or visit https://molevalleylife.co.uk/  to express your interest in taking part, or for more information on Mole Valley Life’s Young Readers Project.
  • Those in need of help during the Coronavirus pandemic can call the Surrey Helpline on 0300 200 1008 for help with shopping, medicines or befriending.
  • The “LinkUp” project is a community partnership project led by the Community Links Team from St John’s C of E Primary School and runs in the Goodwyns, Chart Downs, Rough Rew and North Holmwood areas of Dorking. So far 1709 parcels containing food have been delivered by the “LinkUp” volunteers to those in need during the Coronavirus pandemic. The “LinkUp” volunteers also provide much needed phone contact, as well as collecting and delivering prescriptions plus much more besides.
  • 1 in 5 children in England cannot read well by the age of 11 (DfE 2015: “Reading the next steps”)
  • The number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach 2 million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7 – a 49% increase in 10 years (Age UK 2018: “All The Lonely People”) and this was before Coronavirus hit!
  • “Loneliness Awareness Week” was originally started by the Marmalade Trust in 2015. The Marmalade Trust’s vision, is “to create a society where loneliness is recognised openly as something likely to affect us all”. https://marmaladetrust.org/law/
  • According to https://whatworkswellbeing.org/category/loneliness/ Loneliness can be divided into 3 types:
  • Social loneliness – the perceived lack of quality and quantity of relationships
  • Emotional loneliness – the loss of meaningful relationships. A deeply felt need to be recognised and to “belong”
  • Existential loneliness – Feeling entirely separate from other people, often when confronted with traumatic experiences or mortality
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