By Jennifer Campbell-Klomps, a Beanstalk reading helper in West London.

It’s now the second term of the 2016/2017 academic year. I’ve been a Beanstalk reading helper now for 16 months, and have four precious bungles of Beanstalk readers to guide through the magical world of books!

But first of all, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let me introduce you to my executive office!

I hope that your bottom lip didn’t drop since every effort has been made to create a colourful, comfortable reading space to engage and inspire my diverse readers – one Egyptian boy, one Italian girl and two boys!  

At this point, flexibility is of the essence! As much as I would like to focus on three readers within the 90 minute time-frame – the school is required to improve the literacy for as many pupils as possible which is why I have 4 readers.

Admittedly, this is hard work and each session has to be handled with military precision! Tuesdays and Thursdays are my reading days and I arrive at the school at approximately 08:50 to begin preparations immediately. I make it known to the teachers that I am here, there and everywhere – a little bit like Jack in the Box!  In the space of 10 minutes, I transform the corridor space into a reading area, collect the Beanstalk box and Year 2 pupil from the classroom and make our way to my office! 

There is a choice of display books on the window frame and books from the Beanstalk box – so to make this a jolly experience, this is what we say:

Front and back flaps,

Left and right,

Let’s look in the Beanstalk Box!

The selection process is done with a lot of thought and then it’s time to venture into bookland!

The world of books is not just about reading but understanding and describing what has been read. Struggling or not knowing the odd word or so is expressed as “sounds like” or phonetic pronunciation so that the emphasis is on word recognition rather than to be told what the word is. 

I reminisce about the good old days going back to the 1970s, learning Pitman Shorthand New Era as a 11 year old which as a result of phonetic transcription unknowingly improved my English Language, so I am all the more thrilled that the pupils are being taught to read phonetically – the school is doing a fantastic job, and of course Beanstalk has some input!

But alas,

There are not enough hours in the day,

Not enough funding,

Not enough teachers and

Not enough Beanstalk volunteers!

Being a volunteer is one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and I’ve been around a long time!  When one of my readers is absent from school – asking for someone else to read with instead results with a classroom of children shooting their hands up into the air – - my heart jumps a beat and that’s truly rewarding moment of many!

If you'd like to become a Beanstalk reading helper then it's easy to get involved and a really worthwhile experience.