Mark Sheehan is assistant head and literacy lead at The Oaks Primary School in Birmingham. He has turned a junk room into a library, implemented a policy across the school where every pupil gets to read for a short time every day and says that there is a tangible improvement in the children supported by Beanstalk reading helpers.

A lot of our parents had bad experiences of school and they can’t read themselves, so we have had to bring more reading experiences into school. We have breakfast club reading, sports coach reading, Birmingham City under-18s coming in to read with the children and of course our Beanstalk reading helpers.

For those children that have never read at home, have never had any support one-to-one through those early years, the biggest change is something that you can’t measure – their love of reading. Some parents will sit with their children and teach them to read, teach them the joy of reading. Some children don’t get any of that. So when they finally get that, and realise that reading is a good thing to do, it’s a fun thing, it promotes the love of reading. They finally realise, 'actually, I can get a lot out of reading, I can enjoy this'. It breaks that barrier down. At first, they’ve never had that love of reading, and now they do.


Conor and Rain both in Year 6, have been working with Beanstalk reading helper, Catherine for a couple of years and they have definitely got a love of reading now!

Because Catherine has the time for that one-to-one, twice a week, she can really find out what the children are into. Within a class situation, you haven’t always got the time to find out what they enjoy.

It’s a lovely time for Conor on his own. He can get quite embarrassed sometimes, because the books he’s reading are very different to the other pupils’ books. This is a time where he’s not judged, he’s just with Catherine on his own, where he can read what he needs to be reading with no judgement, instead of being in front of everybody else. Conor now wants to read. He picks books himself.

Rain has really come out of herself, she was really quiet. The difference in her attitude to school is massive – she will now put her hand up, and join in when you are discussing a text. Before, she’d sit there in silence. Now she doesn’t put her hand down! She really gets involved. 

 The impact is remarkable – it has improved their confidence, helped them to develop a love of reading and improved their attainment.

If you would like to learn more about becoming a Beanstalk reading helper please visit our volunteering pages and if you would like to learn more about how Beanstalk can help your school or nursery setting then please take a look at our website here.