Philip's Story: Helping Geelong students with literacy

Philip Reid volunteer at Northern Bay small

Every Thursday, Geelong resident Philip Reid leaves home a little early. First, he visits the Northern Bay College Tallis Street Campus in Corio where he spends time reading with the primary school students before heading to the Australian Tax Office, where he works.

This has been Philip’s routine since he became an Education Volunteer with Ardoch in 2012. “I was actually approached by the Ardoch Education Coordinator to sponsor a Learning Through Lunch program through my office. I thought it was a great idea but it didn’t come through,” he recalls. “I was disgusted. So I asked him, what else could I do to help? That is how I ended up as an Education Volunteer.”

The experience has been eye-opening for Philip. “I grew up in Corio,” says the 62-year-old father of three. “In those days, it was not a disadvantaged neighbourhood. Most of us [Philip and his classmates] went to Northern Bay College and went on to find good work,” he explains.

But things are different now. As the factories closed down in the northern suburbs of Geelong, the surrounding neighbourhoods such as Corio have suffered the effects. “Many children I volunteer with come from single parent families,” says Philip. “They lack working role models at home, particularly male role models.”

With his flamboyant moustache, deep baritone voice and a passion for literature, Philip makes a great role model. Over the last five years, Philip has made improving the literacy of the children his goal. He tends to work with groups of young children in Prep, Year 1 and 2, who need extra help to improve their literacy skills according to the teachers.

Philip reads with them, encourages them to talk about the book, and often plays association word puzzles to ignite their curiosity about language.

Philip has also made it his mission to introduce the children to Australian poets and writers. These include Banjo Paterson, CJ Dennis and Henry Lawson. An avid horseman, Philip has even performed their works for the children during Children’s Week dressed up as an Australian stockman.

“The children had never really experienced the country,” explains Philip. However, in order to appreciate poems such Banjo Paterson’s “The Man from Snowy River”, they need to be able to imagine country life. So Philip brought a horse saddle, bridle and other riding paraphernalia to school for the children to see and touch, and dressed up in a period costume himself before performing the poem for them.

“You should have seen the look on their faces,” remembers Philip with pleasure.

Philip has found volunteering through Ardoch more rewarding than if he was volunteering by himself. “I found the training course very useful,” he says. The professional development sessions provided by Ardoch have helped him too, where he has connected with volunteers working in other schools and shared notes with them.

“Volunteers in Frankston and Melbourne’s West are often facing the same challenges that I am,” he says. “So it helps to know how they are tackling the problems.”

Over the last five years, Philip has forged a strong relationship with the school community. “Many of the children I worked with still come up and greet me at school,” he says. “I have heard from the teachers that their reading skills are good, and that feels really good. I feel I have made a difference.”

This year, Philip is planning on retiring from full-time work. “I hope to give more time to volunteering with children then,” he promises.

Ardoch thanks Philip for his incredible contribution to the children of Northern Bay College Tallis Street Campus and hope to see more of him in future.

Ardoch Youth Foundation is an education charity that supports children and young people in disadvantaged communities. You can help us by making a donation or signing up as a volunteer. Every dollar counts!