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Published 21st Dec 2017

volunteer to become a beanstalk reading hero in 2018

Could you help transform the prospects for a child through the power of books and stories?

Local literacy charity Beanstalk has launched a new campaign for 2018 to highlight the extraordinary difference members of the community in Middlesbrough can make by volunteering in primary schools to support children who struggle with reading. The work Beanstalk’s ‘reading heroes’ carry out will improve the lives of children that need extra help to prevent them from falling behind at school and to bring enjoyment into reading.

For over 40 years Beanstalk has recruited, trained and supported reading helpers in primary schools to provide one-to-one support where it is crucially needed. Many children in Middlesbrough still leave primary school not having met the expected standards of reading which can lead to all sorts of problems in later life.

By working with children who have either fallen behind with their reading, lack confidence, or struggle with their fluency or comprehension, Beanstalk’s reading helpers can make a significant difference to their future prospects. Their one-to-one sessions twice a week with the children they support will help them progress while also helping to encourage reading enjoyment. In 2016-2017 Beanstalk reading helpers supported approximately 470 children in the North East of England with their reading.

“Beanstalk reading helpers really are local heroes within our communities and do so much more than just read. They develop confidence, self-esteem and very importantly help make reading fun and enjoyable. We regularly hear from volunteers who have had ‘breakthrough’ moments with a child because they found a particular book, poem or story which captivated that child’s interests. These moments are often the turning point for a child and happen as a result of regular and consistent reading opportunities,” explains Janet Skeen, Area Manager for Beanstalk North East.

Peter Rogers has been writing children’s stories for over 15 years and recently became a reading helper with Beanstalk in the North East area of England:

“When I became a parent I introduced the philosophy that reading is fun to my own children from a very early age. Now retired, I have the time to bring the world of reading into the lives of more children so they have the opportunity to see what lies on the page. Reading entertains, educates and makes you aware of anything and everything. No one should be deprived of the immeasurable amount of information that’s out there.

The most challenging aspect is discovering what part of reading appeals to the individual child, especially when the child doesn’t even know. So you try all the ways, you don’t give up, because there is an answer – you’ve just got to find it. I asked one child to list three words that described him. He replied, “tall and bored”. Teachers said he had no interest in reading. We struggled initially to find a book that appealed, until I provided “The Parental Agency” by David Baddiel. Then there was no stopping him. The majority of words appeared no obstacle and he started reading during lunch breaks too.

Whether you’re sitting with a child who embraces reading or one who struggles I still find the time together entirely rewarding. I promote the existence of Beanstalk in all aspects of my other volunteering work and beyond, and I know of colleagues who have started the journey to become a reading helper.”

Once trained by Beanstalk, reading helpers on the Beanstalk Reading 321 programme work with three children at a local primary school and spend 30 minutes with each child twice a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. Each session is meant to be relaxed, informal and fun. By having this one-to-one time with each child the reading helper can help tailor resources to the child’s interests and develop reading skills in a fun and engaging way.

If you would like to become a Beanstalk reading hero in 2018 and would like to help children in your community reach their full potential please:

• Visit
• Call Beanstalk on 0845 450 0307 or
• Email

Look out for Beanstalk’s digital ads across the country! Clear Channel, the UK’s leading Out of Home media owner, is supporting Beanstalk’s New Year #BeanstalkReadingHero campaign. Clear Channel has created digital adverts, which will appear on screens at a number of shopping malls across the country, to help promote Beanstalk volunteering opportunities available.


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