17 October 2018

By Marietta Freeman

"I worked for many years in Spain, the USA and eventually settled in West London with my husband. I decided to take time out of my career to raise my three boys; the eldest is now 26 and the twins are 25.  

Once the three were successfully ensconced in university life away from home, it suddenly shifted the dynamic in the house. My husband and I realised we spent so much time talking about the boys, plans with the kids and supporting them with their studies, that we had to find new things to talk about. The dog became like a fourth child for us and received much attention! 

I also began to realise that I missed working with children. They are so honest and have such a different perspective on life. I began to volunteer with organisations and signed up to classes within the community, but I still craved a more regular voluntary opportunity helping children who would benefit from my support.   

That’s how I came to volunteer with Beanstalk...

In the short time I have been volunteering I have already formed so many great memories from the two boys and girl that I support. One that particularly sticks in my mind is when one of the boys I support found an error in a book that we were reading. He was so thrilled that he’d managed to spot the error. I contacted the publishers to tell them about the mistake, in a very friendly way, and was disappointed when they didn’t respond. When I told the young boy that they hadn’t responded he seemed so happy that I’d taken the time to contact the publishers. We decided they were embarrassed that they had been shown up by a primary school pupil! He had never showed enthusiasm about our sessions until he found this error, so it seemed to boost his self-confidence.  

The theme I notice with the children I support is that they have complex backgrounds and, for various reasons, they never get this one-to-one support at home. I find it so rewarding that I am able to provide them with this support that they so desperately want and need. Whilst the children benefit hugely from these sessions, so do the volunteers. 

I found the training very useful and it introduced me not only to ways in which to support children, but to new books and different ways of working with books. I have also met new people who are like-minded. I look forward to continuing to support the three children I’m currently working with and creating even more memories." 

Beanstalk volunteers come from all walks of life and bring so many valuable skills to the reading helper role, significantly changing the outcomes for many children who struggle with reading.

If you could make a difference by supporting children at a local school for a few hours a week, find out how you can apply to be a reading helper in your local area.