News and views News Beanstalk Kent & Medway celebrates 25 years of supporting and inspiring children to read 4th April 2017 Beanstalk Kent and Medway – a local branch of the national children’s literacy charity – is celebrating its 25th anniversary of helping to improve literacy levels across the county. Beanstalk Kent and Medway placed its first volunteers in 1992, following success in London where the charity was founded 43 years ago by Susan Belgrave. Susan recognised that too many children were struggling with their reading, something that would limit their future prospects. Her determination to help these children continues to inspire Beanstalk today. Beanstalk recruits, trains and places volunteer reading helpers in primary schools, where they provide one-to-one support to children that need extra help. Since its beginnings, the charity has gone from strength-to-strength, growing from a handful of volunteers to a network of just over 350 trained reading helpers supporting more than 1,000 children in Kent and Medway alone! Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Area Manager at Beanstalk Kent and Medway says: “We've achieved so much over the last 25 years, but we know that there is much more we can do. That's why over the next four years we are aiming to significantly increase the number of schools and volunteers we work with in Kent and Medway, as well as stretching into East Sussex, so we can support more children that urgently need our help. “As we take the next steps on our journey, we are calling for more volunteers to come forward and join us so that every child leaves school with the reading ability and confidence they need to succeed in life.” To mark its special anniversary, Beanstalk is celebrating its work and its volunteers through a series of events and activities that help raise the importance of literacy in children across Kent. Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler continues: “Over the next few months we have lots of exciting things going on. We will be taking part and encouraging others to support the KM Charity Team’s exciting programme of Charity Challenges, including the Colour Run at Betteshanger Park (11 June) and the Charity Walk (25 June) in Maidstone. This will help us raise funds and awareness for Beanstalk so we can continue to grow and have an impact on reading levels in Kent and Medway. We are also proud to support the KM’s Kent Teacher of the Year and the KM Literacy Awards.” “We are also excited to be part of Chiddingstone Castle’s Literary Festival (30 April-2 May), where we will be setting up a Reading Zone as part of an exciting literary programme. Not least we will be celebrating our incredible volunteers and the work they do, with some of them having been with us 10 years plus!” Colin Butson, 79, is one such special volunteer who has been a Beanstalk reading helper in Kent since the start. Colin has provided reading support at the same school near his home in Sevenoaks for 25 years and says it’s one of the best things he’s done since retiring. Colin says: “The best part of being a reading helper is to see the progress each child makes. The fun we have in each session keeps me young. Once you recognise that there are many ways to lead children to read well, you can have great fun. Unless someone spends time with children who can’t read properly they will be at a disadvantage, not only because they won’t be able to enjoy literature, but also they won’t be able to answer examination questions in all the other subjects.” Beanstalk reading helpers have a direct impact on changing the life of a child by spending just three hours a week, giving them the skills, confidence and imagination they need to succeed in life. If you would like to find out more about Beanstalk, either to volunteer as a reading helper in primary schools or becoming a Beanstalk partner school, please contact the Kent and Medway office on 01622 662026. Ends Notes to the editor: Beanstalk is a national charity that provides one-to-one literacy support to children who struggle with their reading. The charity recruits, trains and supports volunteers to provide one-to-one literacy support in primary schools. Beanstalk’s trained reading helpers transform the lives of the children they support, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers. In the last school year the charity helped over 1,650 children across Kent and Medway with the help of over 350 reading helpers, ensuring children have the skills and confidence to reach their true potential. By July 2017 Beanstalk aims to help 2,000 children, with 425 For press enquiries contact Kate Rumsby at Beanstalk on 07912 392275 or call the Maidstone office on 01622 662026.