Every week we will be sharing stories from our Story Starter volunteers to spread the word about the importance of the support they give and the lasting difference they make. 

Volunteering on a weekly basis, our Story Starters provide children in local early years’ settings (e.g. nurseries), one-to-one support and encouragement to develop their language and communication skills and help them start school ready to read.

Apply to become a Story Starter here

What motivated you to become a volunteer with Story Starters?

I retired at the end of August 2017 and I wanted to continue to lead a purposeful life that provided a new direction and a sense of achievement. I have always enjoyed reading with children and helping them to develop not only their appreciation of books and stories, but also their language skills, their imagination and their own sense of being. I researched voluntary reading organisations and became interested in the support that Beanstalk provides. The web pages for Beanstalk were inviting and informative and I immediately completed the online application.

What is the best bit about volunteering?

The best bit about volunteering as a Story Starter is witnessing the children’s engagement, and seeing their shyness disappear as they develop their confidence. It is a slow process, but worthwhile.

What has been your favourite moment so far in your volunteering?

One of the three children I support is painfully shy, and cannot enunciate very well. Last week she managed to say the word “referee” very clearly (we were reading Peppa Plays Football).  She always tries to say new words, and I praise her every time. The Teaching Assistant reported that she is really benefitting from the one-to-one support that she receives.

What has been the children’s reactions to the session?

They are all accepting of the time we spend together. I go into the nursery’s main room at the appointed times, and to date, each child has willingly left the activity they have been engaged in, and come with me. I have a selection of four books laid out, and they choose which story they would like. Some days each child will fully engage with the story, and the aids e.g. the hand puppet, kitchen rolls for telescopes, assorted building blocks, animals and figures that I have collected to aid the experience. Sometimes they lose focus, but we maintain a continual dialogue. To date the three children all seem to be comfortable and happy.

What would you say to anyone who is interested in becoming a Story Starter volunteer?

I would advise reading the Beanstalk website for background information. Beanstalk will provide training and on-going support. If you have an affinity with young children, enjoy reading and interacting with very young children, then the Story Starter role provides an ideal platform to put your abilities to good use!

Do you have a favourite children’s book?

I enjoy reading My Big Shouting Day by Rebecca Patterson, and the children seem to enjoy this story. Whether they identify with the character Bella, having an ‘off day’ I am unsure. The illustrations are bright, and there is enough detail to discuss what is depicted on each page. The characters are people that children can easily identify with.

You can apply to become a Story Starter here

You can find out about other Beanstalk voluntary programmes here