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/ 28 May 2014

Beanstalk is helping London’s children to read better

Could you offer and commit to two 90-minute sessions a week during term-time over the course of an academic year?  Then Beanstalk would love to hear from you.

Figures available from across England for 2013 indicated that one in seven children left primary school unable to read to the required standard. During a recent round of visits to schools with parishes conducting their parish/community audits this was indeed identified as a significant issue hampering individuals progress and development and thus in the case of one parish we have explored how they might promote a level of volunteering with their local school to be reading mentors.

Here I share details of my various discussions with Robert Dyer a recruitment and training executive with Beanstalk, a national charity that trains volunteers to help children aged 6-11 to become confident and literate. We explored the Beanstalk model of volunteering in a reading and literacy initiative.

Beanstalk works alongside schools with the aim of improving a child’s literacy skills. Its vision is to have a nation of confident children who can read and grow up to lead successful lives. It aims to help them gain vital literacy skills needed to succeed in education, training and employment.

Through their work they have also found that type of intervention has had a positive impact on other members of the family too. The organisation which has good working relationships with the Diocesan Board for Schools and which has placed volunteers into a number of our schools has struggled to meet the demand for volunteers from schools as they see the numbers requiring help increase.

Robert explained how the process worked:

The children selected by the schools for additional assistance are those who have fallen behind. This may be due to illness, chaotic family background, English not being the first language, lack of support at home due to time pressures or parental illiteracy, or for any number of other reasons.

Our sessions are fun, not prescriptive or formal. They include lots of talking and playing of games as well as the reading, we feel that this builds confidence all round and enhance the overall learning experience.

Equally the sessions take place outside of the class room “in more senses than one allowing the children an opportunity to explore reading without feeling any pressure from staff or their peers, giving them time and space to try out new things and to experience success”. 

We are aware of a growing need for volunteers and for this services and are seeking to recruit new volunteers to keep up and meet this need. Our work is life changing, rewarding and enjoyable both for the young person and the volunteer and ultimately for society on the whole.  The people we are looking for are patient, social, good listeners and will be committed to the cause of improving the life chances of a young child. They will also need to have DBS clearance and undertake Beanstalk training.

Are you able/willing to offer and commit to two 90-minute sessions per week during term-time over the course of an academic year?  If the answer is YES, then Beanstalk would love to hear from you.

This could be an opportunity to chance a life and to be church outside of the building. If you want more information visit www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk or call 020 7729 4087.

Beanstalk (formerly Volunteer Reading Help) was established over 40 years and, is now supported by Save the Children UK.


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