I am 68 years old, and spent most of my working life as a newsagent, and then as a pest control technician.
My wife and I first became aware of Doorstep Library through the Chiswick Book Festival and we agreed that we would like to volunteer once we had retired from full-time work. We both retired in 2016, and after holidays to visit children living abroad, we completed our training and joined projects in 2017. I am still volunteering each week at the Mozart project, visiting children and families in the Queens Park area.
I have always believed that learning to read was one of the most important skills to acquire as early as possible, along with learning to tie your own shoes! My mum was an avid reader and she passed that love of books on to me, encouraging me to use our local library, which although only small, provided my first experience of independence, being allowed to go there on my own from the age of 8 or 9. I quickly appreciated the freedom of being able to entertain and amuse myself just by simply reading a book
It was this feeling, encouraged by my mum, and subsequently passed on to my children and grandchildren that made me so keen to volunteer for Doorstep Library. Here was an opportunity to pass on this love of reading to another generation.
The families I regularly visit have all been in the UK for some years and there are no language barriers restricting our mutual understanding. However, when I’ve ‘’ stood-in’’ on other projects, more recent arrivals to the UK have made me realise that in some cases as the children improve their spoken and written English, they in turn help to pass this on to their parents. An excellent example of Doorstep Library providing a real benefit to more than one generation.
I have found that volunteering with Doorstep Library has not simply been a question of what I can do for the children and families, but also what they have done for me. My fond memories of reading with my children, and then my grandchildren, are very vivid, but becoming ever more distant. I have been very grateful to rediscover this pleasure with today’s children, and find so little has changed- to see their excited faces as stories unfold, share and if necessary, explain humour and clever wordplay, and to recognise the mutual pleasure of improving their knowledge, understanding and awareness of their environment. I have come to realise that in many cases our visits also provide valued contact for and with the parents. We can help to explain some of the vagaries of the British character and our systems, and offer some reassurance.
For me, volunteering with Doorstep Library has provided an opportunity to meet people originating from different parts of the world, to discover their stories and customs, and to appreciate that as we get older, we need to keep an open mind and be prepared to possibly revise long-held views – never too old to learn.
I am so pleased to be a volunteer for Doorstep Library and would enthusiastically recommend it to ‘older’ volunteers. It has helped me to feel in contact with younger generations, and rather than accentuating any differences, has confirmed how much we share.