News and views Celebrating the Kent Literacy Awards 2017! By Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Beanstalk Area Manager for Kent & Medway On 21st June, the summer solstice, I attended the Kent Literacy Awards 2017 at the lovely Hempstead House Hotel in Sittingbourne. The Kent Literacy Awards are organised by the KM Charity Team and we have sponsored the event for the past three years. In this time I have had the privilege and pleasure to sit on the judging panel of the awards. This has allowed me to catch a glimpse of some of the fantastic literacy initiatives that schools across the county produce on an ongoing basis. Despite many changes in education, passionate teachers, school leaders, library staff and volunteers take the time and make the effort to ensure that children have the opportunity to develop their literacy skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing – in fun and innovative ways. Beanstalk awarded St John’s CEP school in Canterbury the prize of a trained reading helper for a year for their brilliant school library. This year, we have everything from book quizzes in schools with “drinks and nibbles” to school radio stations, youth parliament and public speaking events, and social media. Many of the initiatives were aimed at students and parents and guardians to ensure that cohesive nature of education, schools and families supporting each other, which is often so important and beneficial to help children read, grow and succeed. The sad reality is that so many children still leave school with low literacy skills. We know that this is often has devastating effects on their future lives, as literacy is one of the key skills that we need in all walks of life. Not only employment, but in supporting our own families and children, being able to communicate with neighbours, dealing with social and emotional difficulties. The list goes on. To spend a wonderful June evening, it was the hottest June day on record, with so many people who have at their heart to give children the best possible start in life was brilliant. I am very proud to work for Beanstalk, knowing that the support our volunteer reading helpers give to children makes a real difference to their lives in the present and the future. The evening was made even better having a long conversation with Mister Maker! What a perfect end to a lovely night. If you would like to help more children discover the magic of reading, then you can do so by applying to become a Beanstalk reading helper today!