By Steve Donoghue, a Beanstalk trained reading helper in Liverpool

Nearly two years ago with retirement looming I was searching for a way I could share my love of reading and do something productive. Beanstalk received a small mention in my local newspaper with the emphasis on the need for reading helpers in local schools. I looked on the Beanstalk website and was inspired to take action.

Yes, I had some nervousness about what would happen and how would I - an office worker for so many years - get up to scratch and help children read? What do they read? Where do I get the books? What school would take me? How do I engage with the children? All this and more caused me concern and no doubt will be in your mind too. I am here to tell you that the professionalism of Beanstalk answered all my concerns from the word go.

After a brief but friendly discussion I went on the training course. There were 8 or 9 of us all in the same boat. The atmosphere was relaxed and focused on what good we could be doing and of the real needs of the children. We covered types of books, differing abilities and how to engage with the children. All the books I could ever want were available and a 'Beanstalk Box' was provided. You can exchange books with other reading helpers or at your local centre whenever needed - there is a huge library of books and games and it covers all age groups. I did still have one concern though, about that all important start in a school….

I needn't have worried. My local Volunteer Coordinator arranged a meeting with the school headteacher at which we covered Beanstalk's aims. I was introduced to the teacher of the children and the children themselves. This was handled in a friendly and warm manner and it was stressed to the children that working with me was going to be fun. Believe me - it is, it really is.

I have ongoing support whenever I need it. Area contacts are never more than a phone call away and I meet other reading helpers who share experiences and top tips they have found that worked for them.  

What on earth was I nervous about? I can now honestly say there is nothing to worry about at all. 

But don't just take my word for it - be bold and try it for yourself - it’s so rewarding and worthwhile!