"I have found if I have any queries, the support from the Coram Beanstalk team has been timely and helpful" Elaine Seager, Norfolk

It's usual to have some questions in your mind before committing to filling in your application form. We have answered the most common ones here, but if yours isn't on the list please do ask us by emailing [email protected] or call 020 7729 4087 (Monday to Friday between 10am and 4pm).

1. Do you work with schools in my area?

2. Can anyone be a reading helper?

3. How much time do I need to commit?

4. What training will I get?

5. Can I start in school now?

6. Can I volunteer with you as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme? 

7. What happens if my circumstances change?

8. If I need help who can I ask?

9. Do the children like having a reading helper?

10. If I apply, what happens next?.

1. Do you work with schools in my area? 

Without knowing where you're from that's tricky to answer! We are more active in some areas than others so we may have a school near you with children waiting support. If you're keen to get going quickly send us an email with your postcode and we'll do a quick check and get back to you. The way we work means we can work with any primary schools across England as long as we have a willing volunteer and the school has a need for our service. If there is a school you'd particularly like to help we can help you to introduce us to them ... many schools simply haven't heard about us yet. 

2. Can anybody be a reading helper ?

That's a good question! To be honest we'd be letting the children down if we said yes, it does take a few essentials to be a successful reading helper. The basics are that you're over 18, friendly, trustworthy and reliable but it takes a little more than that.

We need you to be committed to the role, prepared to learn our approach, able to pass our safer recruitment checks (including enhanced DBS) and able to engage with our training to demonstrate the skills you'll need in school - for example you need to be a fluent english speaker.

The good news is you don't need to have had any specific experience, a teaching qualification or been actively involved in a similar role. If you can relate to children and have an awareness that reading is a good thing, we're happy with that! We believe in being open throughout your training journey meaning that if for any reason we thought you'd struggle in the role we'd let you know and we wouldn't match you with a school.   

If you have a disability that won't necessarily stop you becoming a reading helper but we would need to check with you that we are able to support your needs and in some circumstances seek a medical reference. 

3. How much time do I need to commit?

We do need a regular weekly commitment from you, for the majority of our reading helpers this is for two afternoons a week during term time for a year or more. If you can't do this, it's best if you email us to let us know what you can do and we can see if we have a school waiting that is ok with a reduced time commitment. 

There is nothing stopping reading helpers taking a short break or attending appointments in school time, as long as the school is made aware of your absence in advance.  We know that children get the most benefit from consistent support with the same person. You do need to think of them and be realistic about whether your usual pattern of events throughout the year has space to give enough time to the children.

4. What training will I get?

Our initial training is delivered over two sessions in small groups via Zoom lasting a couple of hours each. We cover everything you need to know to get going with children from ages 4-11.

You'll learn how to read aloud really well, use book chat to engage children in conversations, have fun with the books through games and how to make sure children succeed. Everything comes together to equip you to create a positive reading experience for the child and you in your 30 minute sessions together.

As an estabished reading helper you'll be able to book on to further learning and development sessions as well as use our library of resources via our online portal to continue your learning journey at your own pace. 

5. Can I start in school now?

Reading helpers start in schools all the way through the year, not just in September. Once we've received your application we can have you ready to start in a school within a month, however this is reliant on you quickly responding to any requests from us, the DBS certificate being processed quickly and us having a partner school waiting for a new reading helper. 

The reality is that for many volunteers it can take a longer time. If you need a quick start to be able to meet our time committment please email us and we'll check if this is possible.

6. Can I volunteer with you as part of the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme?

Our reading helper role is not a good fit for the DofE award, however we do work with secondary schools to deliver our reading leaders programme that is a DofE approved activity. If you would like to get involved with this you need to ask your school to contact us via the schools tab at the top of the page. They'd need to have enough students showing an interest and be prepared to pay the cost for our reading leaders programme, so unfortunately it doesn't always work out. 

 

7. What happens if my circumstances change?

We know that life does bring unexpected changes and these may mean you can no longer meet the needs of the role. If this happens before you've started in school we'd rather you let us know by email, we may be able to work together to find a solution or if you can't continue that's ok.  

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8. If I need help, who can I ask?

We're on hand to help with anything you need, both as you're starting with us, or any time after. Although we try to cover all bases, the role is wide and varied and all of us are unique - especially the children! This can result in needing answers to situations specific to you. 

Before you start in school the best place to seek help is by emailing us. After you've started in school, you'll have access to our support team as well as taking advantage of the knowledge within our reading community. We have a network of peer to peer support offering one to one and group connection opportunities. 

9. Do the children like having a reading helper?

For most children the answer is a resounding yes! In fact many of our schools will tell us of the disappointment for the children that don't get a regular reading helper and how more hands go up in class when the reading helper appears at the door with a space to fill. Generally children love coming out of class for their fun reading sessions.

You may meet a child who is a little reluctant. It may be that they are very shy, embarrassed that they struggle with reading or don't like being away from their friends. For these children this is where the approach you'll learn through training comes alive. You'll take the pressure off them, make sure they don't feel they have to read and build a trusted learning relationship that means they look forward to their sessions. It can be dishearting at first, but the sense of pride you'll get one day when you go to the classroom door and they jump up to greet you is immense!

10. I've applied, what happens next?

Every application we receive will generate an email response, if you haven't seen this check your junk or spam folder. The email will give you more information about the next stage, having done an automatic check to see if we are currently active in your area. 

If we are active in your area, you'll have a link to watch a film and answer some questions. After submitting your answers you'll be invited to book onto your first training session or we may need to give you a call to check out some of your responses. 

After completing your training and safer recruitment checks, you'll have a session to meet our support team to get you ready to start in school. Next stop - meet the children!

Apply to volunteer now!