It’s something of a jump from a love of cricket to helping children with their reading. But that’s the leap I made when I became a Beanstalk volunteer.

It was all down to spotting an appeal for Beanstalk volunteers on the website of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) to which I belong. It looked to be a challenge, as well as something fun and worthwhile. I was recently retired. I decided to have a bash.

An interview, the necessary vetting and a training session later and I was all set to go. I started helping three second-year pupils who had all fallen a little behind with their reading.

From the start I have tried to make it fun as well as educational. Each half-hour session includes a card game and a word game as well as reading. I encourage the children to talk about what they have been up to and what’s coming up in their lives.

These are pupils who are, hopefully, now thriving on the individual attention. I’ve found one particular book they all seem to like – a Horrid Henry tale – and am quite happy to make a fool of myself acting out some of the story to make it easier for the children to understand.

Sometimes it can be hard work. The children lack fluency in their reading and often struggle with words of more than one syllable. The sessions show just how difficult the English language is, with its range of spellings and pronunciations.

And even though the half-hour flies back, it can be difficult to hold a child’s attention and get them to concentrate. There are rewards, though. It’s a joy when a child safely negotiates a difficult word or recalls phrases from a previous session. I was thrilled when a teacher said that one of my children was progressing with their reading.

I have found it useful to let the children spot words and then write them down. I then encourage them to write down similar-sounding words (hen, pen, ten, den).

If there is a particular word or action in a story I try to relate it to the school experience. For instance, there might be something in a story that could be words a teacher might say to a pupil, or something a child might say to a friend in the playground.

I’m only three months into this new experience. But already I’m beginning to see improvements in the reading skills of my three children.

It’s important for me – and for all volunteers – to make the sessions as interesting and inspiring as possible. If you can instil a love of reading in a child, you are giving them a great gift.

By Peter Woodman

Could you instil a love of reading in a child like Peter? If so, please consider becoming a Beanstalk reading helper.