News and views The joy on their faces when they discover a new word is hugely rewarding Jack Ogalbe is a Beanstalk trained reading helper and a sports fan. I first became a Beanstalk reading helper in order to both give something back to my community and gain potential experience with a view to going into teaching in the future. As a freelance journalist I often have time on my hands in the week and wanted to start using it more constructively. Volunteering seemed the perfect idea and with my line of work, helping children to improve their literacy was understandably an attractive proposition. Going into a school for the first time in almost a decade was admittedly somewhat intimidating but I could not have wished for a nicer welcome. The atmosphere was extremely positive and allowed me to settle in and deal with any early nerves. I found the best way to use that anxiety was to turn it into enthusiasm and the quicker you relax into the role, the more confident the children become. Sometimes it can be difficult to get the children to sit down but that’s part of the fun. Once they are settled they always enjoy reading and I enjoy listening! When in a one-on-one situation, kids can be extremely funny and thrive on the extra attention. It also gives you a huge sense of satisfaction when you realise they are improving. I have only been a reading helper for a month or so but have already noticed their progression and it feels brilliant!!! All the kids are at different levels and present their own individual challenges. They all have their particular interests and its fun trying to tie that into reading, whether it is choosing a certain book or playing a related game. Helping children with their reading is not only about books. It is about getting them to recognise letters, numbers, words and phrases in different contexts. Top Trumps seems to be a favourite among my lot, while they also love playing cards and dominoes. Sport is a big part of my life and is something I have used to try and keep the children interested. Kids love playing games and you can see the excitement that comes with competition. If you can do this while at the same time improving their reading then you are always going to be on to a winner. For anyone unsure on getting involved with Beanstalk I would simply tell them to just go for it. The children are keen to learn and the joy on their faces when they discover a new word for the first time (or beat you in a game) is hugely rewarding. An hour and a half twice a week does not sound a lot but it makes a huge difference. I have also learnt things about myself that I never would have had I not joined the programme and I am excited about what the rest of my time with Beanstalk holds. If you would like to become a Beanstalk trained reading helper then it’s really easy to get involved, I cannot recommend it enough!