Local literacy charity Beanstalk has launched a new campaign for 2018 to highlight the extraordinary difference members of the community in Manchester 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 Manchester 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 1,850 children in the North West 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 Christine Braithwaite, Area Manager for Beanstalk North West.

Noel is from Manchester and has been a Beanstalk reading helper for over two years:

“One of my happiest memories as a parent is the absolute joy and excitement in my own children’s eyes when reading at bedtime, especially reading together when, even though they didn’t know the words themselves, they were so familiar with their favourite stories that they were confident enough to try. It was these memories that drew me to Beanstalk and I have had many similar experiences since I became a volunteer.

“I think the thing I’ve learned is that it’s OK as a volunteer not to teach reading. Reading to a young person is as valuable as reading together and listening to them read. I think I was surprised that many children work so hard at sounding out the phonics of a word that they don’t take in what they’ve read or the storyline. You need to take breaks, go back and talk about the story. I would most definitely strongly recommend volunteering. Not just to see the young people making progress, no matter how small that may be, but what better excuse can you find to spend an hour or two a week reading kids’ books!”

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:


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