Beanstalk’s good work  

Every day I arrive at my work at Beanstalk, a national literacy charity that recruits, vets, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading, with a sense of purpose and determination.

I find it very sad that despite our compulsory education system, and the many great teachers that work in our schools, many children leave primary school without being able to read to the required standard. There are many reasons for this, but often children do not read enough outside school, and there is a clear link between lack of attainment and being read to by a father or male carer.

The recent Read On. Get On report published by Save the Children on behalf of the Read On. Get On campaign, states that last year a quarter of all children left primary education without reading well, rising to two in five poorer children.

In Kent and Medway where I work, 31 per cent of children on free school meals did not reach the expected standard at KS2 tests. The impact of leaving primary school without the ability to read well can be, and often is, devastating.

Each child left behind at this stage will face a difficult time in secondary school and often turn away from education, leading to a lack of qualifications and struggles to find work. According to the report, in England, struggling to read is more closely linked to low pay and the risk of being unemployed than any other developed country, including the USA. So what can we do about this?

The Read On. Get On coalition, made up of teachers, parents, businesses and charities including Save the Children and Beanstalk, is calling for all children to read well by age 11 by 2025

It aims to create a nation of strong readers by:

• Supporting parents to read with young children for ten minutes a day;

• Urging the public to volunteer to help disadvantaged children improve their reading;

• Urging the voluntary sector, schools, policy makers and the private sector to develop programmes, interventions and partnerships to help all to read;

• Urging all political parties to support the 2025 target.

On a personal level, I love reading to and with my two daughters, and so does my husband. One is a real bookworm and her happiest moments are buying new books. The other loves hearing stories, but prefers reading for purpose to reading for pleasure. I do not have a problem with this, as I know she can read and understands what she is reading. Indeed, one of the children Beanstalk supported some years ago only wanted to read washing machine manuals as they wanted to follow in their parent’s footsteps.

On a professional level, I am very privileged to be working with a great number of fantastic volunteers, giving freely of their time, passion, commitment and enthusiasm, to support children who are struggling with reading.

Last year, the children we worked with in Kent and Medway progressed on average 2.4 sub-levels and in KS1 this rose to 3.2 sub-levels. We are always looking for volunteers with a passion for reading who would like to see our vision of a nation of confident children who can read and grow up to lead successful lives, become a reality.

We also call on any school that does not already have a Beanstalk reading helper to use a small amount of their Pupil Premium to support struggling children to read, grow and succeed. Last year, 2013, we celebrated our 40th anniversary as a charity (we were formerly known as Volunteer Reading Help), and this gave us an opportunity to gather a great and varied audience, from former reading helpers, to library staff, to head teachers, to come together and raise a toast to our achievements.

My inspiration comes from seeing the pure joy of achievements resulting from reading and comprehension and to watch as children experience the pure enjoyment of learning and achievement of reading the first book – the sheer delight of it all!

To contact Beanstalk about volunteering or taking on a reading helper, please visit our website www. or contact our Central Office on 0207 7294087