Suas Ireland: Reading Buddy Training

Welcome to Suas Ireland’s online Reading Buddy training!

Thank you so much for taking the time to complete this volunteer training. Below you will find a series of videos and notes that will fully inform you on your role as a Suas mentor. We ask that you watch all of the videos and presentations and read through the accompanying text thoroughly. This will take about an hour in total.

Once you’re finished, you will need to fill out the declaration at the bottom of this page to confirm that you have completed this online training course.

Should you have any questions at all, please feel free to call us on 01 662 1400.

Scroll down to get started! ↓↓↓

Section 1: Introduction

Online training overview

The Suas online training will cover:

  • Educational disadvantage in Ireland and the need for support
  • How Suas interventions work and the mentor role and responsibilities
  • A methodology for delivering literacy support to children on a one-to-one basis
  • A set of guidance and tips to help mentors make the most of their role
  • Information about what mentors need to do and where they can go to ask questions and get support before or during the intervention

Note: The online training must be completed before the face-to-face training. Two weeks before the programme begins, the face-to-face training will take place in the school you have selected. Successful completion of all training is mandatory for all volunteers.

Section 2: Role and responsibilities

We have prepared a short presentation on the roles and responsibilities of a Suas mentor. Click the link below to view it.

Mentor role

As a mentor, your two primary purposes are to support children to:

  • Improve their literacy skills
  • Have greater confidence in their ability to learn

You are helping children to improve their reading both in terms of fluency and in terms of their ability to understand what they are reading.

However, equally as important, you are observing their progress over eight weeks and you are well placed to encourage them to have greater confidence in their ability to learn.

Later in this course, you will learn more about the paired reading methodology that you will use to support children to improve their literacy skills and have greater confidence in their own ability to learn. In addition, you will also learn how you can develop a positive mentor-child relationship, which will maximise the outcomes for the children.

As a mentor, you can have a big influence on children’s attitudes and approaches to reading. Our results show that a prepared and engaged mentor has the biggest positive impact on a child’s progress.

Session structure

The structure of the paired reading session is 30 minutes with Child 1 (5 minutes’ introductory chat, 20 minutes’ paired reading and 5 minutes’ closing chat) and 30 minutes with Child 2 (same structure as for Child 1).

Each mentor works with two children (Child 1 and Child 2) over a period of eight weeks. Sessions take place in the children’s school twice a week, typically.

Each session lasts for one hour, and the structure is as follows:

Child 1

  • 5 minutes: introductory chat
  • 20 minutes: paired reading
  • 5 minutes: closing chat

Child 2

  • 5 minutes: introductory chat
  • 20 minutes: paired reading
  • 5 minutes: closing chat

Section 3: Paired reading


Paired reading: dos and don'ts


  • Support the child to read as much as possible.
  • Allow the child to self-correct.
  • If the child is stuck and not able to self-correct, help him/her to move forward.
  • Praise the child for good reading of hard words, getting all the words in a sentence right and self-correction.
  • Be specific in your praise, for example, ‘That was a difficult word — you pronounced it well!’
  • Make the child feel comfortable in your presence; enjoy the time with them.


  • Don’t rush the child in their reading; allow the child to move at their own pace.
  • Don’t intervene too quickly; give the child an opportunity to self-correct.
  • Don’t intervene too slowly; if the child is still struggling after four seconds, help him/her to move forward.
  • Don’t be distracted or disengaged; if you’re not interested, the child won’t be.
  • Don’t be negative; the child will likely be very sensitive to negative remarks and already feeling bad.

Section 4: Working effectively with children

Below you’ll find a presentation on working effectively with children, and how to deal with challenging behavior.

What is a positive learning environment?

A positive learning environment for us is one that promotes children’s learning. As a mentor, you can directly promote children’s learning through your words and actions. Research shows that the success of our literacy intervention depends on the quality of the mentor-child relationship. The better the relationship, the better the outcomes.

Dealing with challenging behaviour

Challenging behaviour is behaviour that would make it difficult for you to fulfil your role as a mentor. This can range from a child being distracted while reading to a child not participating or actively disrupting others during sessions.

In most cases, challenging behaviour can be avoided by working at developing a good relationship with the child from the outset. Nervousness can lead children to try distract you from the task. A child who feels uncomfortable will be more likely to act giddy or act out. Do not take it personally. Try to engage the child in choosing a book or in the storyline of a chosen book and keep a positive attitude.

We have had very few cases where children display very challenging behaviour but if this occurs, the session supervisor, who will be a member of school staff, is present to provide support. They may intervene or you can approach them discreetly if you are having any difficulty.

Section 5: Safeguarding children

It is crucial that you take the time to read through the Health, Safety, and Welfare document linked below. This outlines our child protection policy, and lets you know what to do in case a child discloses anything sensitive during your sessions.

Section 6: Next steps

Have any questions?

Is there anything we have not covered? Have we created more questions than answers? For more information, please see the FAQs on our Volunteer Options page on our website.

If you would like to speak with one of our staff at any stage, please feel free to call us on (01) 6621400 or email us at [email protected]. We are always happy to chat with our volunteers about any aspect of volunteering, especially any concerns or queries.

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