My main career was in the Civil Service, during which time I spent several years doing overseas service in Hong Kong, Cyprus and Africa. After taking early retirement I started to work for the NHS, spending the final seven years as a Practice Manager for a GP Surgery in Bedford.

My first contact with Beanstalk was when I was as I walked into the Tesco store on Riverfield Drive, Bedford, four years ago. My youngest daughter was very slow to learn to read and it handicapped her throughout her time at school. I thought that the aims of the charity would allow me to try to help a few children avoid the fate of my daughter. I believe I have good language skills, love reading and have always enjoyed working with youngsters.

Helping the children I work with discover the joy of reading is a highlight for me. The most satisfying moments have been when the children want to take their books on holiday to finish reading! That tells me a corner has been turned and they have acquired the beginnings of a love of reading.

I have learnt that no two children are the same but they all have their individual strengths. Finding those strengths (and building on them) is the challenge (and the joy) of working with them.

Firstly and very quickly after I started with Beanstalk I learnt that working with children is fun. I then realised that I got as much out of the sessions as the children. More recently I have learnt that the Beanstalk sessions have helped make a real difference to children's performance in the classroom and at home.

I would recommend anyone to consider volunteering. If you enjoyed reading bedtime stories it is very likely you would enjoy helping children find joy in reading and language. It is not teaching in a formal sense and it is not just about reading. If you enjoy playing Scrabble or doing crosswords, these are great activities to introduce children to, have fun with and develop their language.

I would say as a Beanstalk volunteer you are going on a voyage of discovery with children to find what it is that they really enjoy amongst literature, poetry, word games, crosswords etc. The eventual rewards of finding you are regularly beaten at 'Hangman' or having a child ask to take their book home so they can continue reading, are immeasurable.

Written by Fraser Simpson

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