Could you help a local child to read?

May 16, 2014 by

Beanstalk-childDo you love to read? Would you like to pass on your love of reading and books to a local child who is struggling? Last month we were contacted by a wonderful charity called Beanstalk that works with local primary schools to help and encourage children who are falling behind in their reading. Their work can help to change each child’s life and future prospects.

Right now Beanstalk is in need of new volunteers to help at schools all around the Richmond borough. Could you help? Here to explain how it works is local representative for Richmond and Kingston, Kate Loynes.



Volunteering with Beanstalk – What Does it Involve?

by Kate Loynes, from

Shockingly, last year one in eight children completed primary education without having reached their expected reading level. As a consequence, statistics show that one in six adults in the UK has a reading level below that of an eleven year old and a shaming percentage of prisoners demonstrate very poor literacy skills.

Beanstalk-child-and-logoBeanstalk is a national charity that trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who’ve fallen behind with their reading. We are committed to ensuring that every child in primary school has the chance to reach their full potential and to be given every chance to succeed in their future lives. Schools who use Beanstalk reading helpers refer to them as their “secret weapon” citing examples of not only improvements in recorded reading levels but also, and often more heart-warmingly, tales of transformations in attitude to learning, confidence and enjoyment in reading and books.

In order to reach more children Beanstalk needs to recruit many more people who are able to commit to twice-weekly sessions, for at least a year, and are passionate about passing on a legacy of literacy.


What sort of people become volunteers?

Beanstalk-sessionsBeanstalk reading helper volunteers come in all shapes, sizes and ages and are from widely differing backgrounds. But they all share a passion for books and are united in a common aim – to reduce the number of children leaving primary school without a sufficient level of literacy to be able to fully access the secondary curriculum.

The demographic of the children is incredibly diverse. They may have fallen behind due to illness, chaotic family background, English not being their first language, lack of parental support or any number of other reasons.

What sort of commitment is involved?

Each Beanstalk reading helper works with three children. Volunteers see each child for two 30-minute sessions per week, during term-time, for a whole year. This means that you would typically go into schools twice a week, for an hour and a half each time.

We always aim to find our volunteers a school that’s located at a manageable distance for them to get to and we can focus on those schools close to where the potential volunteer lives or works.

Beanstalk-FeatureThe sessions tend to include lots of talking, reading, games and fun. With Beanstalk’s support, the child’s approach to learning and enjoying reading is greatly improved and, by being able to tailor the sessions to each child’s individual needs and interests, volunteers can build the child’s confidence and help them to catch up in a pressure-free environment at their own pace.

What do our existing volunteers say?

We have some amazing volunteers and they cannot help but enthuse about the children they work with and are often overwhelmed by the difference they can see in a very short space of time. Here are just a few of the testimonials from our reading helpers…

“I have found it very rewarding to see how the children’s confidence grows once they realise they are not being set up to “fail” when they come to me. Now, other children in their classes ask me if they can come too, because they hear I “play games and do puzzles”!

I am given a box of resources by Beanstalk (games and books) and I go to the Library when a particular interest is expressed. Recently, following a class project on Ancient Egypt, we ‘wrote’ messages in hieroglyphics! I have found lots of free downloads to print out for (literacy) games and the half hour with each child whizzes by. Sometimes they just want to chat, do pencil and paper or oral games. Every session is different and I love it!”
Nicky Jones, reading helper in Merton

“As a personal observation one of my children has changed so much over this last 18 months. A self-conscious quiet child who seemed overwhelmed by the learning process has blossomed into a confident chatty person willing to decipher any word and keen to grab a dictionary or book to illustrate a point.

This morning I was aware for the first time of the adult she would become. This individual now has enough tools to get the very best from her education and hopefully make herself and her family proud. I am often overwhelmed by the energy these children give to learning. It’s a joy to be a part of.”
Reading helper in Battersea

“I was shocked when I read Beanstalk’s statistics that 1 in 8 children leave school unable to read, and felt this was something I couldn’t ignore. So I signed up to the Beanstalk Volunteer programme and soon I was warmly welcomed at Garfield Primary School by children and teachers.

I read with my allocated children twice a week, and during that time we share books and play games. It’s great to have this one to one time with these young people, and to know that I am giving them extra valuable support. Hopefully this will help them on their way to reading and also open the door to a better future.

For anyone who loves books and wants to share this love with the next generation, I would say that being a Beanstalk volunteer is a wonderful opportunity to do so. I have found it very fulfilling, and both I and the children eagerly look forward to our sessions together.”
Veronique Channevy, reading helper in Merton


Get in touch or find out more

If you are interested in volunteering, or would simply like to know more about what we do:


Help in other ways

If you are unable to volunteer, you can help in other ways by spreading the word amongst your friends and acquiantances. For example:

  • Share a link to this article or the beanstalk website on your social media feeds
  • Print out copies of this Beanstalk Advert PDF and post in your workplace
  • Share this Beanstalk Graphic in the footer of your blog posts and web pages

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