By Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk CEO and reading helper 

June 1st marks the start of Volunteers’ Week 2017, an annual celebration of the difference made by volunteers across the country.

I firmly believe that volunteers are all too often the glue which holds our villages, towns and cities together, carrying out important work without the recognition they deserve. At Beanstalk we know that volunteers can - and do - change lives. So, this Volunteers’ Week, I’d like to thank all of our volunteer reading helpers for all they do in helping children to read, grow and succeed.

They truly do an amazing job in helping to transform the reading ability and confidence of the children they support, giving them the skills and confidence to reach for the stars. It fills me with pride that I am able to lead an organisation made up of so many selfless and supportive people who make a real impact on the lives of young children. As a reading helper myself I know how rewarding it can be and the long-lasting change it can make.

The difference made by our volunteers cannot be overstated. The one-to-one support they provide transforms the literacy skills of children they support, as shown by our impact data and regular feedback from schools.

But the real difference made by our volunteers is told in the stories of the children they support. I know that each of our reading helpers has countless stories of the impact they have made in their sessions, but I would just like to share with you one of the most uplifting stories I have read on the change made by one of our reading helpers: 

Marcus’ story

Marcus is a Year Six pupil and the youngest of seven siblings. His mother’s mental health issues mean that he needs to make his way to and from school alone. Marcus would sometimes wear the same clothes for weeks on end and had to rely on his teachers to intervene with his personal hygiene.

Help at home with reading was non-existent and his school work suffered because of this. Marcus’ reading confidence and comprehension were very low, and he stated that he found school work hard and only read when he had to.

Marcus was supported by a Beanstalk reading helper for almost a year. After just six months his teacher commented that Marcus’ self-esteem, reading skills and comprehension had improved greatly and his reading age was close to age appropriate.

His confidence was also vastly improved and Marcus indicated that he ‘agreed a lot’ with statements such as ‘I enjoy reading’ and ‘I like to spend my free time reading’. This marked a complete U-turn in his attitude.

So this Volunteers’ Week I urge you all to think of the difference made by volunteers and think of the positive impact you can make by volunteering yourself

*name of child changed for child protection reasons