Beanstalk launches national campaign to encourage more men to volunteer as reading helpers 5 November 2018 Beanstalk has launched a national campaign to encourage more male volunteers to train as reading helpers to support children who struggle with reading in primary schools and early years settings. Beanstalk trains volunteers who deliver vital one-to-one support across England to children aged 3-13 who lack essential language and reading skills. However, our current statistics show that just 16% of current volunteers across the country are men, a trend which has seen little change over the last decade. Beanstalk hopes that its #BeanstalkMensMonth campaign, which coincides with International Men’s Day on 19th November, will promote conversation about encouraging more positive male role models in to schools either as teachers, support staff, or volunteers, while raising awareness of the valuable contribution current male volunteers are making to children by sharing a love of books and stories with them. Ginny Lunn, CEO at Beanstalk, says: “It’s so important that children see men reading books, being caring and compassionate and showing emotion just as much as women. Children need to see this balance, particularly in early education, and even more so for boys and girls who may be missing a male role model at home. The time our volunteers spend one-to-one with the children they support, talking about books and the range of characters and topics in the stories, is so important in helping create a window to the wider world. Through this campaign we want to break down the barriers that may be preventing some men from considering becoming reading helpers, while highlighting the incredibly positive impact all our volunteers have on the children they support.” Mathew Tobin is a Senior Lecturer in English and Children's Literature at Oxford Brookes University: “There is a notable difference in the number of male teachers we have in primary education compared to female and the majority of parent helpers who come into school are the same: for many children in the primary years, then, men may be largely invisible. We need more variety in education roles, not just in relation to gender, but also in terms of cultural and racial diversity, to provide children with a true reflection of the realities around them. Specifically with reading, sharing books together creates opportunities for conversation and helps build a bond between the child and person they are reading with. That is why it’s so important to have men as well as women sharing books and stories. The right book in the right hands can help that child understand how they feel, helps them understand their place in the world, while creating important relationships for life. Reading and being a reader changes lives forever. He adds: “As a reading helper with Beanstalk and a positive role model for children, you can not only change a life, you can actually save lives. The connections you make with these children provide so much more than reading support. By having someone they can look up to and be open and honest with, and by reading books together and relating to the characters, children can find their place in the world and know that it’s ok to be vulnerable and sensitive sometimes.” Kevin Taggart is Deputy Head Teacher at Jarrow Cross Primary School in South Shields which has three male Beanstalk reading helpers who volunteer at the school on a weekly basis: “I've worked with the occasional male student teacher but the vast majority remain females. I only came across male teachers when I attended secondary school and at primary the only male staff member was the caretaker! Nowadays it is more common and I think there is an important role for males in school - not only as 'a good male role model' but more importantly as effective and productive teachers who can inspire young learners. One of the reasons I wanted to go in to teaching was to try and be that inspiration in the classroom. It's easy to get lost in data, monitoring and marking but it's important to remember that the best memories children will have of lessons is when they did something new, different or unexpected. It's important that I remind myself of that. Schools are often looking for volunteers and as long as you are reliable and committed then it is a rewarding and fulfilling role - especially when you can see that you are making a difference and the children you are supporting are making progress.” Pete Murphy has been a Beanstalk reading helper in inner London for almost four years: “As a father I was motivated by the joy of reading to and with my son when he was young, how learning to read had opened up the world around him as jumbles of characters gradually became words and sentences. Being able to read brought him inclusivity as he started to read and understand signs in shops, on public transport or on the TV, newspaper headlines etc. So I threw my hat in the ring and after an interview with Beanstalk, training course and DBS check, there I was. During my years as a Beanstalk volunteer the experience has been extremely rewarding, witnessing children learn and grow, developing confidence and improving their reading skills not only through reading itself but also by chatting and listening.This all contributes highly in building rapport and boosting self-confidence.” Regionally, the highest percentage of Beanstalk’s male volunteers compared to female is in the South East (20%) followed closely by Yorkshire with 19%. The lowest percentage of male Beanstalk reading helpers compared to female is in the South West (10%). As part of the campaign Beanstalk will be sharing stories from its male reading helpers working in schools across England to inspire more men to volunteer with the charity as well as providing book suggestions for dads to read at home with their own children. Don’t have the time to volunteer? There are a number of other ways people can support Beanstalk and help children who struggle with reading. If you would like to get involved through either donating, fundraising or through a corporate partnership, please visit our volunteering pages to find out about a range of other opportunities where you can help rewrite the story for many children across England.