Being a volunteer can greatly improve wellbeing and reduce social isolation 21 December 2019 Beanstalk is urging more people to become reading helpers in 2019 to not only help transform the lives of children who struggle with reading, but also to discover how being a volunteer can positively change their own lives and significantly improve wellbeing. According to the latest feedback received by over 1,200 Beanstalk volunteers, being a reading helper in 2017-18 has helped them feel better connected to their local communities while improving mental activity and overall wellbeing, with 93% saying they would recommend becoming a reading helper to others. The charity is urgently calling for more volunteers in order to reach 15,600 children across England with their reading in the next year. Beanstalk volunteers provide one-to-one support to children aged 3 to 13 in a variety of ways, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers. As well as significantly improving the life prospects for children and spreading a love of books, being a reading helper can be equally life-changing for the volunteers themselves. The vast majority of volunteers (92%) agreed that being a reading helper with Beanstalk made them feel valued, while 89% also say that it helped them stay mentally active. Over two thirds of Beanstalk reading helpers who provided feedback to Beanstalk (70%) also said that it made them feel more a part of the local community. “We know that volunteering can greatly enrich and improve people’s lives in a number of different ways. We see it all the way through the volunteer journey with Beanstalk from the training we provide through to placing reading helpers in early years and primary school settings and we are proud to be able to offer a truly life-changing experience for both reading helpers and the children they support. As a reading helper myself I know personally just how enjoyable the experience can be. For me it’s a few hours a week when I can switch off from everything else and just spend it reading and talking about books and sharing stories with the children I support. It’s great fun for me as well as them!” explains Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive Officer at Beanstalk. Beanstalk’s focus on volunteer wellbeing in 2019 will be amplified through its appointment as charity partner of the year for McCarthy and Stone – the UK’s leading retirement housebuilder. Together both organisations will work closely together to raise awareness of the importance of reading while promoting meaningful and fulfilling volunteering opportunities to McCarthy and Stone homeowners in locations where schools are in need of reading helpers, potentially helping reach many more children who need help with reading. “Volunteering opportunities which embrace intergenerational activities can bring an incredible amount of joy and value to local communities which is why this partnership with McCarthy and Stone is such an exciting one and will help forge links between Beanstalk volunteer roles and the local community – something the government’s recently launched loneliness strategy will also aim to accomplish. A large proportion of our volunteers join us after retiring, and having this opportunity to go ‘back to school’ and become part of the school community again can be a really magical and unique experience, so we are really looking forward to working together with McCarthy and Stone in 2019,” adds Ginny. Gareth has been a reading helper since the beginning of September in Bradford: "After suffering an injury I found I was in a situation where I had to reorganise my life and as part of that I wanted to do some volunteering. It was suggested to me that I would be really good working with children and, as an avid reader myself, I found the opportunity to become a reading helper with Beanstalk and was placed at a school in September. I have found it to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. The children I work with look forward to seeing me and even jostle over who is going to go first! I get great feedback from the teaching staff and the children and I just love being able to pass on that love of reading. Having this opportunity has really changed my life." In 2017-2018 approximately 3,700 Beanstalk reading helpers supported approximately 13,400 children with their reading. In the next year the charity aims to have reached 15,600 children through the help of 5,000 reading helpers. If you would like to enquire about becoming a reading helper with Beanstalk and helping transform lives through the magic of sharing books together, please complete an online registration form.