My background is as a Nurse for children with learning disabilities and I currently lecture at the University of Salford in a Nursing and Social Work degree programme.

As I began to reduce my working hours, I knew that supporting children with reading was something I was interested in. Actually it was Google that helped me to find out about Beanstalk and I followed it up from there.

One of my happiest memories as a parent is the absolute joy and excitement in my own children's eyes when reading at bedtime, especially reading together when, even though they didn't know the words themselves, they were so familiar with their favourite stories that they were confident enough to try. It was these memories that drew me to Beanstalk and I have had many similar experiences since I became a volunteer.

Last year I supported a young girl who was not a bad reader, but was reluctant to engage in reading. We soon got into the habit of me writing in her Reading Record every tricky word she managed to sound out. By the end of the year she had read over 70 difficult words which I copied onto several sheets of A4 which I turned into a scroll. On my last day with her, we produced this scroll of her "Exceedingly Long List of Exceedingly Tricky Words". The scroll was so long, she had to stand on a chair to unroll it. Her classmates were well impressed and, unusually, she was lost for words on her own success!!

I think the thing I've learned is that it's OK as a volunteer not to 'teach' reading. Reading to a young person is as valuable as reading together and listening to them read. I think I was surprised that many children work so hard at sounding out the phonics of a word that they don't take in what they've read or the storyline. You need to take breaks, go back and talk about the story.

I would most definitely strongly recommend volunteering. Not just to see the young people making progress, no matter how small that may be, but what better excuse can you find to spend an hour or two a week reading kids books!!!

Written by Noel Fagan.

If you have been inspired to become a #BeanstalkReadingHero in 2018, visit our volunteering page to find out more.