By Debra Farquhar, a Beanstalk trained reading helper in West London

I have been a Beanstalk reading helper for almost a year now. It has been enormous fun and a great opportunity to continue to work with young readers, and most especially to see great progress not only in reading, but in the self-confidence of the three children I support.

According to their teachers, two of my three readers have more than doubled their comprehension scores in formal tests in the last year. It is good to hear confirmation of my own suspicions: that these readers are beginning to transfer their improved reading outside of their Beanstalk sessions.

Alongside the reading, I have really enjoyed playing short games with my readers. My most reluctant reader came alive when I introduced Rory’s Story Cubes into a session – this boy had the best grasp of the structure of storytelling I have ever come across in a 10 year old.

And the only girl in my group was able to suddenly see how to build words when we played a variation of Boggle. Instead of entirely random letters, we used the six letters of her name plus one extra vowel & three random consonants to work with. We have named the game after her - for indeed, she invented it!

I became a Beanstalk reading helper as a way to share my many years of working with children and young people in reading, reading support and the love of books. My two grown-up sons now live overseas, so with an empty nest and early retirement, I had time on my hands and a continued passion for reading.

For almost 25 years I had lived and worked overseas, both in IT and then, after retraining, as a school librarian. I have worked in international schools which deliver the National Curriculum, where the majority of pupils have not had English as their first language. Reading, reading aloud, listening to audiobooks and storytelling have proved a great way into the wonderful world of children’s books.

It’s great to be able to help children discover the wonderful world of children’s books, and provide support to such a great school. The school I read in have had no budget for library staff, and so two amazing parents stepped in, on a voluntary basis, to run the library part-time. I have been able to help them to improve the services offered to their pupils, including helping to bid for and win some external funding to enable the school to run an extra-curricular club for the children next term: shadowing the 60th Kate Greenaway Award. I have volunteered to mentor the librarians to help them get the most out of this exciting project. You can find out more about the Kate Greenaway Award here.

Next term my Year 6 pupils will sit their SATs, and so my time with them will end. I am dearly hoping to continue working at the same school, with a new bunch of readers who need just that little extra support to improve their reading and confidence. Until then, I will continue reading, playing games and encouraging these newly confident readers, as they head off to secondary school.

If you would like to become a Beanstalk trained reading helper like Debra then getting involved is quick and easy!