Reading charity launches ‘Back to School’ volunteer appeal

As the new academic year approaches, national reading charity Beanstalk is stepping up its search for volunteers across London to help reach more children than ever before with its potentially life-changing reading support programmes.  

This academic year the charity is aiming to support more than 1,900 children aged 3-13 across the region who are at risk of falling behind at school without intervention. In order to achieve this, Beanstalk needs volunteers to join its network of trained reading helpers to help deliver this one-to-one support in local primary schools and early years settings.   

According to the latest statistics, 25% of children across England left primary school not meeting the expected levels in reading last year (2017-18). This can have a devastating effect on those children’s futures leading to all sorts of problems in secondary education and beyond.  

Beanstalk works to close the gap between struggling readers and their peers by providing trained volunteers who support and encourage children on a one-to-one basis in local early years and primary school settings. The increasing number of schools requesting Beanstalk volunteers and the addition of a new early years programme aimed at tackling the word gap among children aged three-five, means more volunteers are urgently needed in readiness for delivering Beanstalk’s programmes this September.  

“The start of the new academic year is always a critical time for us to ensure that we have enough trained volunteers ready to deliver our key programmes across the region,” explains Lindsay Fox, Area Manager at Beanstalk.  “However, this academic year we have more programmes to deliver in more settings than ever before, which means we urgently need to increase the number of volunteers we have so we can reach more children that need this vital support.”   

These programmes include Beanstalk’s 321 programme which sees trained reading helpers supporting three primary school children each fortwo 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. Through this regular, consistent support the child’s approach to learning and enjoyment of reading is transformed. 

Story Starters is an early years programme delivered by the charity through which volunteers work one-to-one with children, aged three to five, in two 20-minute sessions a week. Story Starters is a collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid(University of Liverpool) which aims to give children the support to ensure that they have the skills to start primary school ready to read. This project has been made possible by £1 million in funding from People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund which was awarded in January 2017.  

Lindsay adds: “It’s a shocking fact that too many children are starting school without essential speaking and language skills which leads to an increasingly uphill struggle when learning to read. Regular and consistent reading support is unfortunately not always possible in the home environment for a variety of reasons, which is where Beanstalk volunteers come in. We now have a big challenge ahead to reach over 1,900 children through our volunteer network by the end of the academic year. If you think you could make a meaningful difference as a Beanstalk reading helper or a Story Starter volunteer, then please get in touch with us.” 

Beanstalk provides full training and ongoing support to all volunteers. For more information or to apply, please visit the website atwww.beanstalkcharity.org.uk or call Beanstalk on 0845 450 0301. 

Don’t have the time to volunteer? 

There are a number of other ways people can support Beanstalk and help children who struggle with reading. If you would like to get involved through either donating, fundraising or through a corporate partnership, please visit the website www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk to find out about a range of other opportunities where you can help rewrite the story for many children across England. 

Reading Leaders 

Beanstalk’s expanding portfolio of programmes this year includes ‘Reading Leaders’. This peer-to-peer reading support programme enables older students to work one-to-one with younger students to improve their reading skills, attitude towards reading and confidence. Secondary school teachers and staff can find out more at https://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/reading-leaders.