By Louise Sutton, a Beanstalk trained reading helper

I’ve been reading with two of my children for almost 18 months now and although I feel like I know their personalities, they never fail to surprise me. Whether it’s to tell me, in great detail, what they’ve had for lunch, to ask if we can make cupcakes at the end of term or that they won a goldfish at the fair during half-term (I wasn’t sure they still did that, but apparently they do!).

One of the great things about what we do as a Beanstalk reading helper is that the other things around the reading are just as important.  Sharing your love of a good book, laughing at silly jokes and pictures but also showing an interest in anything the children want to talk about for half an hour.

It can be quite intimidating to go into a school at first, you’re not a teacher, but these three children are looking to you to keep them entertained for 30 minutes.  Working with them gets easier every week, because I know what they expect from me, how their mood is going to affect our sessions and most importantly their reading level.  Although, I have to say one of the children who is new to me this year managed to hide the extent of her reading prowess for at least 3 weeks, I sussed her out, eventually.

I’ve spoken to lots of other reading helpers in my time with Beanstalk and I have to admit to feeling a bit jealous when they say their children are always delighted to see them. I know sometimes I’ve had "Oh but it’s sunny outside", "We’re dancing to the new Taylor Swift song" or "It’s lunchtime" from mine, but they come, they enjoy it and I do too!  The challenge of keeping them interested is half of the battle!

This is my second academic year at school and, I have to say, I was worried about having to give up being a reading helper. Work was becoming more demanding throughout the week, and as a freelance journalist and TV and radio producer I have to go where the work is. Fortunately Beanstalk and my school are flexible in allowing me to do one day a week.

One of my pupils is in her final year of junior school, getting ready to move into “big” school in September. It’s such a nervous time for them, with SATs and big changes happening all the time – it’s great to be able to talk to her about what’s happening, do a bit of reading, laugh a bit and help where I can. You really feel like you’re making a difference to their lives.

If you’ve got time and can make that commitment, I’d recommend Beanstalk to anyone. The children get so much out of having an adult to themselves for half an hour and for me, well I didn’t realise I had any patience, but it turns out I do. I know what’s hot in the children’s book world and not every day of my week is the same – at least one day is about someone else entirely.