Our Patrons

Julie Cohen | Patron

What do you want people to know about you?Julie Cohen

I’m a writer, and the author of many books for adults, including DEAR THING, which was a featured Richard and Judy Book Club book. I’m also a tutor of creative writing, and before that, I taught secondary school English for ten years. And before that, I moved from my native USA to the UK because I loved studying English books. But I never would have done any of this if I hadn’t first been a reader. To me, reading is magical—it’s the doorway to infinite experience and knowledge, and it’s also good fun. And it’s shaped my entire life.

I live in Reading with my husband and young son, in a house full of books.

What is your role at ABC to read?

Patron of ABC to read.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

My local writing group, Reading Writers, decided to donate the proceeds of our latest anthology to the charity, and I was delighted to be asked to be a patron.

Dan Freedman | Patron

What do you want people to know about you?Dan Freedman

Before becoming an author, I worked as football journalist, travelling to two World Cups with the England Team and interviewing the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. I love talking about books, writing and football and spend much of my time visiting schools all over the country.

For more info, please check out

web: www.DanFreedman.co.uk

twitter: @danfreedman99

Praise for the Jamie Johnson series

‘An inspiring read for all football fans’

Gary Lineker

‘You’ll read this and want to get out there and play’

Steven Gerrard

What is your role at ABC to read?

Patron of ABC to read.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I’m delighted to be working with ABC to read. As a children’s author who regularly works with reluctant readers, I’m right behind everything that Marcia and the team are trying achieve.

James Carter | Patron

James CarterJAMES CARTER is an award-winning children’s poet and non-fiction/educational writer. He is the author of over 15 popular and best-selling poetry titles. James travels all over the UK and abroad with his guitar (that’s Keith) and melodica (that’s Steve) to give very lively poetry/music performances and workshops. He is a former lecturer in Creative Writing/Children’s Literature at Reading University. In the last 15 years he has visited over 1000 Primary schools and performed at various prestigious literary festivals including Cheltenham, Hay and Edinburgh jamescarterpoet.co.uk

Our Trustees

Paul Dieppe | Chair

What do you want people to know about you? Paul Dieppe

My name is Paul Dieppe I am 64 years old, married, and a proud grand dad of 4 grand children. I was born in London and moved to Cookham in 1954. I was educated at Maidenhead Grammar School and then went to the West  Midlands to train as a teacher. I then came back to Berkshire and spent the next 41 years teaching in Berkshire Schools before I took early retirement in 2011. For the last 22 years I was head teacher of a very large Slough primary school with over 720 pupils. It had its own Children’s Centre and I had over 120 staff. We had over 34 languages in the school and many children had problems with reading.

I didn’t really enjoy reading until I was about 9, when the book “Bambi” turned on all my emotions (it made me cry) and I could see the pictures in my head for the first time. The Library then became a place where each Saturday I could lose myself in books like the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. The only problem was that I did not want to take them back and was always getting fines. I now have a love of books both physically and in e-form with my trusted Kindle. I believe that every child should have the same opportunities to read and I believe passionately that reading is the key to success and I am sure all our volunteers feel the same.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I had VRH  volunteers in the school to help with reading for many years and when they decided to pull out of Berkshire I helped in the setting up of “ABC to read” and became one of the founding trustees and have remained a trustee since then.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

On my retirement I volunteered my services to “ABC to read” and began helping with the training of volunteers. This has now developed into being responsible for training, setting up a training team and devising new courses that we can sell to provide money to support our core business of training volunteers and putting them in schools to help children with their reading.

Pauline Harper | Deputy Chair

What do you want people to know about you?Pauline Harper

I spend a lot of time travelling, running, meeting friends and visiting exhibitions. As a teacher I have always been passionate and committed to improving literacy and have been supporting an English language teaching programme Tanzania for more than 10 years. ABC to Read is a great way of indulging my passion and making a difference for children who might not otherwise have the one to one support that is so beneficial.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a trustee.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I looked on the Volunteer Just Do It website and heard about the work of ABC to Read in local schools.

Which is your favourite children’s and adult’s book?

My favourite children’s book is ‘Peace at Last’ by Shirley Hughes; my adult choice is more difficult, I will choose ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee.

Steve Smith | Trustee, Treasurer

What do you want people to know about you?Steve Smith

My name is Steve Smith. I have a degree in Agricultural Botany from Reading University. I am married to Caroline (in the photo) who is a teacher and is also now involved with ABC to read. We have two children; James who is 23 and has just completed a degree in Biomedical Sciences at Cardiff and Sam who is in his final year at Sussex studying Law.

I spent my career in the pharmaceutical industry developing new therapies in dermatology and immunology. In 1996 I completed an MBA and in 1999 set up my own drug development company. The company expanded rapidly and in 2006 I sold it to a US Company. I have since set-up a new quality assurance company (2009) and work for the new company on a part-time basis.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am the Treasurer and a Trustee of the charity

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

After selling my company I was looking for voluntary roles in the charity sector where I could use my financial and business expertise. The role of Treasurer was advertised as the current Treasurer was wanting to step down. I am married to a primary school teacher and my sister and mother are (were in the case of my mother) primary school teachers. Through them I fully understand the importance of reading and literacy and so the charity appealed to me.

Which are your favourite children’s and adult’s book?

I have no favourite children’s books as it was too long ago! However, I remember ‘The Blue Balloon’ by Mick Inkpen being a favourite of my boys when they were young.

I have many favourite adult book but perhaps my fav of all time is ‘Birdsong’ by Sebastian Faulks.

Mike Edwards | Trustee, Field Worker

What do you want people to know about you?

Mike EdwardsBorn and raised in Enfield, Middlesex, I arrived in Reading at the age of eighteen to train as a teacher… and I’ve never escaped! I am married with three grown-up children and have worked as both a secondary teacher of German and as a primary teacher in four of Berkshire’s six unitary authority areas. I also represented Berkshire on the National Executive of a major teaching union. For ten years, I was headteacher of New Town Primary School, Reading before taking on a succession of shorter-term interim headships in West Berkshire and West Oxfordshire. I took early retirement at the end of 2011, so I now have more time to devote to voluntary work with ABC to read and the Scouts and have recently returned to choral singing after a gap of over thirty years.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I have been a trustee of ABC to read since it was founded in 2004 and currently have special responsibility for safeguarding.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

As headteacher of a school in a challenging area and which was facing an uphill struggle to raise standards for its children, I despaired when the national charity that supported reading volunteers in Berkshire suddenly closed down, just before Christmas, leaving volunteers, staff, schools and, most importantly, children in the lurch. I decided to channel my indignation into something positive and was flattered to be invited to become one of ABC to read’s first trustees.

Sarah Browning | Trustee

Sarah Browning

What do you want people to know about you?

I have worked in the charity sector for over 10 years and currently run my own business, working with charities and other not-for-profit organisations to help them plan and deliver their staff, volunteer and other interested party communications. I have a 6-year-old daughter who is learning to read and just discovering the love of a good story – it’s a joy to watch her face light up at an unexpected twist she encounters in a book! I believe every child should have that.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a member of the Board of Trustees.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I was horrified to hear the statistics about the number of children who leave primary school struggling to read and I wanted to get involved with an organisation that is changing that. Having seen the process that my daughter is going through, I know that even with all the support in the world, there are ups and downs. If we can give children enthusiasm and motivation for reading, we can give them so many opportunities for their future.

Which is your favourite children’s and adult’s book?

My favourite children’s book is ‘Anne of Green Gables’ by Lucy Maud Montgomery and my adult choice is ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ by Audrey Niffenegger.

Jane Nicholls | Trustee

What do you want people to know about you?

Hello, my name is Jane Nicholls. I work at a state primary school in Slough as the Lead Higher Level Teaching Assistant. I teach literacy and numeracy to 10 and 11 year olds. Prior to that I volunteered for ABC to Read.  Before I had children I worked in the software industry in the UK and US.   I live in Windsor with my husband and two children aged 13 and 11.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a trustee with ABC to Read.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to Read?

I believe reading is the key to children accessing their lessons and the world around them, as well as a world of entertainment – there is just nothing like a good book! I am delighted to have the opportunity to be involved in an organisation which promotes this so effectively.

Which is your favourite children’s/adult’s book?

My favourite book for children is Holes by Louis Sachar. It has two strories in it that weave together cleverly, and it is exactly the kind of book which makes children ‘get’ why adults go on about how great reading is and gives them the ‘reading bug’ for a lifetime of enjoyment of books.

Joe Lally | Trustee

What do you want people to know about you?

I have been married for forty years, I am a father of two grown up daughters and have six grandchildren. I was a teacher of the deaf and worked with all ages of children and students. I also managed large services for sensory impaired children. I have also been an education officer for special needs and a governor of several schools.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a trustee and as such I hope to support all aspects of the running of the charity. I see the role of a trustee as one that both challenges, guides and supports the aims of the charity. I also occasionally become involved in training new volunteers.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

Initially I was a volunteer in a school. I was asked if I would like to become a trustee

Which is your favourite children’s and adult’s book?

My favourite children’s book is, The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde and my favourite adult book is, Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman.

Both books are masterpieces of the human condition and should be on the school curriculum.

Claire Herriott | Trustee

What do you want people to know about you?

After a legal career, I am focussing my attention on the importance of education and the opportunities that are given to children in this regard. I am a parent Governor of 2 local schools. I am also involved in the local scouting organisation. I live in Reading with my husband and our son, who is 9 years old.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a member of the Board of Trustees.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to Read?

I have always loved reading and have passed this love onto my son who is an avid reader. Reading is a portal to other worlds and it is important to give children the opportunity to gain a love of books and to see the world through the eyes of a reader.

I saw a poster for ABC to Read in a local bookshop and investigated the website. By coincidence I saw a Twitter feed in which the organisation were asking people to become Trustees. As I believed that I had the required skills, I put myself forward for the role.

Which is your favourite children’s/adult’s book?

When I was a child I loved A.A Milne’s stories and poems. With my son I enjoyed reading Dr. Seuss’s ‘Oh,The Places You’ll Go’. As an adult, my favourite book is ‘Hotel New Hampshire’ by John Irving and my other favourite, and a book I retreat into, is ‘ Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen.

Jenny Cooney | Trustee

Which is your favourite children’s/adult’s book?

‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ by John Fowles and ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte.

Our Employees

Marcia Rowlinson | Chief Operating and Development Officer

What do you want people to know about you?
Marcia Rowlinson

Marcia Rowlinson, I am married with two boys, have lived in Reading for 25 years and like to think I have settled well and supported the local community, after being born and brought up in Germany.  I come from a sales and marketing background mainly gained through a banking environment.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am working as the Chief Operating and Development Officer with my initial focus, using my sales and marketing experience to recruit more volunteers and develop the charity into more schools and throughout the community.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I have welcomed the opportunity of working in an environment that supports and produces a significant improvement in a child’s reading ability and therefore in their life chances. As a parent who wants the best start for my children, and like most, I feel it is a shame that so many children in Berkshire start secondary school with a low reading ability. I am very much looking forward to working with you all and very much hope you can carry on helping us to continue such a valuable service

Lee-Ann Kays | Office Manager

What do you want people to know about you?
Born and bred in Reading, I studied European Business at the University of Portsmouth including 2 years at the Bordeaux Business School. I then spent 15 months travelling, when I met my husband in Australia in 1999. We are now married and have 2 daughters, Anna aged 9, and Emily aged 7.

I have worked for Amazon.co.uk and then IBM France as a Recruiter using my French language skills. However, since the arrival of our family most of my time is now taken up with children’s birthday parties, helping on school trips, days out to Legoland and so on! In between those activities I take part in Bootcamp training and running.

What is your role at ABC to read?
I am the Office Manager and I deal with all the administration side of the organisation, based in Bridge Hall, Reading.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?
I joined ABC to read in October 2012 as a job-share with the previous Administrator, Cathy, a friend of mine. Following on from Cathy’s departure I took on the role by myself. I really enjoy being part of ABC, as having two young children myself I can really see and understand the importance of reading in a child’s life. We regularly read together and equally they love reading by themselves. It is also lovely to work with a team of people who are very passionate and extremely motivated by what they do.

Wendy Mentiply | Office Assistant

What is your role at ABC to read?
I assist Lee-Ann in the day to day running of the ABC office.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?
I have 2 daughters who are both absolutely book mad. Reading to me is one of the fundamental learning tools a child should have. The love of reading and the escapism is what every child should discover. I have spent hours helping out at schools which my children have attended and encouraged the less able readers of the class and tried to fulfill a need to find reading a fun and relaxing activity

Lindsey Livingstone | Field Worker

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am the fieldworker responsible for Windsor, Slough, Langley, Maidenhead and Bracknell (East Berkshire).

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I started working for what was VRH (Volunteer Reading Help) as a volunteer reader in a school in Slough in 2003. I enjoyed volunteering and wanted to do more for what became ABC to Read, so I became a fieldworker in 2004. I volunteer because I enjoy working with children and I am passionate about books and reading.

Sara Puttock | Field Worker

What do you want people to know about you?
I originally come from Bristol but have lived in the Reading area for more than 20 years. I live at home with my husband, daughter, son and my dog – a golden retriever.
I enjoy long country walks in the winter , sailing in the summer and reading any time of year! My book group are now in our 13 th year of reading together!

What is your role?
As Fieldworker for central Berkshire, I am the link person between ABC to read, volunteers and schools in Caversham, Earley and Reading.

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?
I have always been passionate about books and children’s literature. In the past I have worked for a book publisher and been a volunteer at my local school. I also have first hand experience of trying to help a dyslexic child (my son) who struggles to read and enjoy books.

Clare Meldrum | Field Worker

What do you want people to know about you?Clare Meldrum

I spent my childhood in Northamptonshire, moving to Wokingham in 1995 with my husband.  We have two children who are both in secondary school.  For over twenty years I have been involved in education, teaching in secondary and primary schools.  My hobbies are reading, knitting, sewing and keeping fit at the local gym.  I am the Chairperson of our local Scout Group, Co Chairperson of the school PTA and a member of the Link Visiting Scheme.

What is your role at ABC to read?

I am a fieldworker for Wokingham and Bracknell and I am also a volunteer reader. 

How and why did you get involved with ABC to read?

I strongly believe that all children should be given the opportunity to develop their literacy skills so they can reach their full potential.  For this reason, I joined ABC to Read as a volunteer reader and I have seen firsthand the changes that ABC to read can make to children’s lives.