14th April 2020

Michael is a reading helper in Kent and during the lockdown has written about his experience sharing a love of books with children.


From an early date in my work as a reading helper I started writing my own short stories for the children. In this way I could name them as being the hero of the story. I believe children are always eager to read a story they are actively a part of. The stories can also be about a child’s particular interests. This of course always in addition to using the excellent books provided by Coram Beanstalk. I often also borrow books from my local library about any child’s particular interest.

Reading with children

It can never be underestimated how important it is to gain a child’s confidence. This can be done in many ways and needs to be because all children are unique. Humour I find is one of the best ways. If you can get a child laughing and relaxing you are half way towards whatever goals you and they have for the future.

Success stories

This current school year I have been working with a child who has severe behaviour problems and has been attending a special school for 2 days a week. After a while having sessions with me the Headmistress took the trouble to say how impressed she was by the way I spoke and behaved with the pupil and the laughter between us. Also a teacher from the pupils special school observed some of the sessions I had with the child. My work with the child was all about confidence building. Once that was achieved the reading sessions progressed well.

Children's positive attitude

Sometimes I have a spare session to fill (usually because a current pupil is away from school on the day). When I go into any classroom and ask for a volunteer to fill the slot many eager hands always shoot up which is of course a delight to see.

Getting to know everybody at the school

I know it is a short time we have with each pupil but from the start I did all I could to get to know the teachers and many of the pupils, also the school support staff. It has always been a great help to know as many people at the school as possible. In this way I can get answers to any questions I have and get things done without having to take up the Headteachers valuable time.

Being a Coram Beanstalk volunteer

The favourite thing I enjoy about being a Coram Beanstalk volunteer is in my retirement years I can engage in work that really matters and makes a difference and I love doing.

Comments that inspire

Being complimented by the Headteacher who has a many year’s experience teaching children. She said to me ‘I love hearing you talk to the children and how you behave with them.’ She has thanked me many times for the time I give to supporting the school with my Reading Helper work and the positive difference I am making.

A message to the children I support

One of the children I support said to me ‘Mr Dillon my reading is getting better every day.’ So I said to her ‘That’s great, well done! ‘At night as you fall asleep say ‘EVERY DAY IN EVERY WAY MY READING IS GETTING BETTER AND BETTER.’ Since then I have encouraged all the children I support to say the same thing.

What am I doing now?

Since my retirement at the age of 74 I have written and published 3 books. Working with children as a Reading Helper has inspired me to start writing a book for children with text and illustrations/drawings. I am at the moment just starting the 4th chapter.

I wish everybody at Coram Beanstalk and the many reading helpers throughout the country, plus all the staff and pupils at my school, a safe and secure passage through the extraordinary and troubled times we are all experiencing.

Become a reading helper

We are still processing volunteer applications and encourage anyone interested in becoming a reading helper to apply as normal by completing our online form. When schools do re-open, we want to be ready to help close the gap which COVID-19 is inevitably widening for many children during the lockdown.