Beanstalk is looking to recruit volunteers to help give primary school children confidence in their reading ability
Last year 63,000 children across England left primary unable to read to the expected level. Being unable to read well can have a detrimental effect on a child's future prospects both in the workplace and society. If current trends continue, by 2025 as many as 1.5 million children will have been left behind.
National charity Beanstalk recruits, trains and supports volunteers to offer one-to-one literacy support in primary schools to children who struggle with their reading ability and confidence.
Beanstalk has 17 offices throughout England and currently has 100 staff and 2,900 volunteers, but it's not enough. To help slow the amount of children who are falling behind, Beanstalk are looking to recruit and train reading helpers to improve children's reading ability, inspire confidence and increase their enjoyment of reading.
Artemis Cooper explains how rewarding it is to be a Beanstalk volunteer
How are we going to nurture the next generation of readers, if we don’t start with giving children the love of reading first? Targets and league tables mean that for teachers, the imperative is to get pupils literate. The kids who are used to having a bedtime story have a head start here, but even if reading is not something you see your family doing, you can still get the bug. Yet there are many children for whom reading doesn’t come easily at all.
If you have got this far, you are probably so accustomed to flicking your eyes over printed words that you can’t remember what learning to read was like. At Beanstalk, they remind you. We were given short texts that had been put into a simple code and asked to read them. When every word is an effort there is little room for pleasure – and just looking at the rest of the page, with its relentless knots of letters, makes you feel exhausted. So it is for so many kids who struggle in class, getting ever more bored and despondent; and if they haven’t cracked it by the time they get to secondary school, they will almost certainly fall behind their peer group, with the gap widening every year. They are not only missing out on a great pleasure, but their chances of having a successful life become significantly diminished.
Beanstalk tackles the problem by putting volunteers into primary schools to help children who are having difficulties – and not just with reading: sometimes it’s a general lack of confidence that’s holding them back, or troubles at home. In a half-hour session I try and get in between five and ten minutes reading, but Beanstalk-time is always pupil-led, allowing the child unwind in a quiet space that you provide. So we play games too, and draw, and chat; and for many Beanstalk children, the two one-to-one sessions they have with you may be the most adult attention they will get in a week.
For the volunteer, some moments are unforgettable. Tina reads quite well, but was so withdrawn that she barely spoke. Over the course of a few weeks she has blossomed, and when I first saw her shy little smile it was like a shaft of sunlight. Randal’s reading is weak, and I remember finishing a poem about football that he’d got bored with. The words were such a struggle for him that he hadn’t noticed the poem’s rap-rhythm, but he now he was listening, spell-bound: ‘How did you make it sound like a rap song?’ he asked. Because that’s what poetry is, Randal, it’s a song... These moments are rare, and they don’t last long; but they certainly make you feel that whatever else life threw at you that day, it wasn’t wasted.
I have only been a volunteer for two terms, but I have learnt a lot. For example, gin-rummy can be a great game for boys if you introduce it as ‘a sort of poker.’ Also children who read, even quite fluently, can’t always tell you what’s happened in the story. Above all, I was amazed by just how much they want to win: and that, above all, is what Beanstalk wants for them.
Volunteer with Beanstalk today!