“I suddenly worried about what I was going to do with my time” 3 October 2018 With children now settled in school, heading off to university or exploring the world on a gap year, it can suddenly leave a bit of an empty void for parents. The daily interaction has gone and an unsettling silence has replaced the noise. Sending the children off in to the world is often a strange experience. It’s often referred to as ‘Empty Nest’ syndrome, affecting different people, men and women, in different ways and takes time to adjust. Some will try a new hobby, learn new skills and others might see it as an opportunity to increase the workload or try a different career path. At Beanstalk our volunteers come from all walks of life, and we have many parents that have become reading helpers after sending their children off in to the world and wanting to find a way to keep busy, or to do something to connect them with the local community. “I suddenly worried about what I was going to do with my time,” according to Amanda, who has recently trained to become a reading helper with reading charity Beanstalk now that both her sons have gone to study at university. “I dabbled in animal charities and considered volunteering with a charity supporting older people, but I couldn’t resist the pull back towards books and children. I missed that wonderful primary school age and wanted to pass on my love of reading to those children who, like me, weren’t read to as children.” For many of our volunteers it is this ‘pull’ back to children that brings such a sense of fulfilment when their own children go on to pursue their dreams. Many of Beanstalk’s ‘empty nesters’ are big readers themselves, they understand the important part that books and stories have in our early development and how this can ultimately shape our future. In Amanda’s case, it was her own experience with books as a child and as a parent that led her to want to help other children with their reading. “I wasn’t lucky enough to be read to when I was a child, whilst my parents supported in so many fantastic ways, reading just wasn’t a priority for them. I feel like I missed out so much on the childhood pleasure of sitting down and reading a book because it just wasn’t something that was on my radar. It didn’t seem normal to me.” “I had a very successful career and in the midst of this had two wonderful boys. My husband and I were keen to ensure that they did get the joy of reading Winnie the Pooh and other great children’s stories, so from a young age we read to them. My one son gobbled books up, reading constantly and had excellent comprehension from a young age. My other son did not take to them so easily, often struggling and resistant towards reading. This had an effect on his education, his resistance to reading made studying difficult for him.” Amanda has now started to support three children on a one-to-one basis, twice a week at a primary school local to her. She supports the same children for a full year to give them regular and consistent help with their reading. Without the additional help that Amanda provides, these children are at risk of falling behind their peers. Schools face increasing pressure on being able to support children on a one-to-one basis that need it, but Beanstalk volunteers have the time to give on a weekly basis, to encourage and boost confidence away from the pressures of the classroom. “I’m supporting three children and can already see huge potential in them to make progress in their reading. I cannot wait to help them improve their reading skills and pass on my love of reading to them. Reading and comprehension are such crucial skills. Any support mechanisms that children can have should be embraced. My words of wisdom would be that if you don’t get the right encouragement at the right time, then you fear reading and will ultimately reject it. I‘m proud to be a Beanstalk reading helper, supporting children at this vital time in their education.” If you have been inspired to become a Beanstalk reading helper, the charity needs volunteers to help children in early years settings and primary schools across England. Find out how to become a reading helper.