Friday, 13 February 2015

Guest Post - Beanstalk Charity

Today I have a special guest post from Beanstalk Charity, please take time to read and if you can offer time to help or anything, please help.  

It's  important that our children spend time reading and they receive all the help they can.  For me I was lucky my mum was always a big reader, so many children don't have that support.

Beanstalk 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. Shockingly, last year one in seven children completed their primary education without having reached their expected reading level.  As a consequence of the number of children slipping through the net, 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 is 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. For over 40 years Beanstalk (formerly known as Volunteer Reading Help) has been successfully providing a service to primary schools by recruiting, vetting, training and supporting volunteers who go into schoolstwice a week working one to one with each of three children selected by the school who are struggling to learn to read. By being able to tailor the twice weekly 30-minute sessions to each child’s individual needs and interests they are able to give much needed attention to help build the child’s confidence and help them catch up in a pressure-free environment at their own pace.

Schools that 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.

The reading helpers themselves 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. 

Veronique Channevy, a reading helper in Merton told me “I was shocked when I read Beanstalk's statistics that 1 in 7 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.”

Another volunteer, Nicky Jones says "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!"

And finally a volunteer in Battersea wrote at the end of her first year "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."

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 who are just as passionate about passing on a legacy of literacy as the volunteers quoted above. We are currently in urgent need of volunteers in the Kingston area so if you areinterested in applying or having a chat about our work please contact Kate Loynes at 


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