My background is secretarial/administration. After a longish break looking after my two sons I went back to full time employment at a school in Rainham.  I remained there for 18 years until I decided to retire at 60. 

I first heard about Beanstalk on the internet and I immediately thought "I could do that!". Shortly after I retired I felt it was important to be involved in something that was going to be of benefit to the local community.  I also wanted to do it for myself in order to retain my self-confidence.

Here are some of my highlights: 

When I go into school my children's classmates ask if they can come and read with me as well. 

It is very pleasing to see the children gain self-confidence as we get to know each other. One of my girls was extremely quiet and when we chatted she would only give brief answers to my questions.  The highlight was when she actually told me something that had happened at the weekend without any prompting from me. Small, but quite a big step!

It's great when they start reading with expression. We sometimes share our reading aloud so the children get an understanding of intonation.

When they are enjoying a particular book it is great to hear them recap the story with enthusiasm. In fact, when it comes to recapping they are generally more switched on than me!

Playing Dominoes! I have introduced the game of dominoes to the children I work with and they really love the competitive aspect.  We keep a running total over weeks (sometimes months). Some of the children tell me they practice with members of their family in order to beat me. 

I have learnt that it is extremely rewarding for me to be able to help children enjoy reading in a fun way without pressure.  They love playing the games but I have discovered that if we find the right book for each individual child the reading part of the session is enjoyed just as much.  It is a real treat to see them welcome you with a smile and observe how their self-confidence improves over the weeks/months.

I am in my third year of volunteering as a Beanstalk reading helper now and intend to carry on. When I first began I thought maybe I would just do it for the year but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it myself even though I did have two challenging boys during that first year. Some children can be a challenge but it is all the more rewarding when a breakthrough is made.  It has also helped my self-confidence knowing that the school I work with is very appreciative of their Beanstalk reading helpers. I also believe that the twice weekly half hour one to one session is of immense benefit to each child. We have time to read, chat and play a game, all of which builds their self-confidence and self-esteem.  They thrive on positive comments and encouragement.

I would definitely recommend volunteering with Beanstalk. We receive thorough and excellent training before being released into a school.  The follow up sessions are useful and we can always call on a Beanstalk Reading Coordinator for help/advice if required.

Written by Vicky Sweeney.

If you have been inspired to become a #BeanstalkReadingHero in 2018, visit our volunteering page to find out more.