Here are some answers to the most common questions we're asked by prospective volunteers. If you have any other questions please do get in touch with us at 020 7729 4087.

1. What is a Coram Beanstalk reading helper?

2. What time do I need to commit?

3. Can I take holidays during term time?

4. How old are the children?

5. What books will I read with the children?

6. Do you get training and what does the training cover?

7. Will the school or pre-school setting be local to me?

8. When would I start in a school?

9. Do I need any qualifications or previous experience?

10. How much support will I receive from Coram Beanstalk when placed in a school?


1.   What is a Coram Beanstalk reading helper? 

Coram Beanstalk reading helpers are volunteers who are trained and supported by Coram Beanstalk to help children develop their reading confidence and ability. Coram Beanstalk reading helpers work with children on a one-to-one basis, giving them consistent support to practise reading skills and increase confidence and self-esteem. There's an emphasis on having lots of fun, and together they read, have fun with books and talk and listen. Take the first step to becoming a reading helper by taking a look at our volunteering opportunities.

2.    What time do I need to commit?

Our evidence shows that regular, consistent support makes the biggest difference. Many of our volunteers support the same children for at least a year but most stay for much longer. Even if you can only provide a shorter initial commitment we'd still love to hear from you.

3.    Can I take holidays during term time?

There is nothing stopping reading helpers taking holidays in school time, as long as the school or nursery is made aware of your absence in advance. They fully understand the need for some volunteers to do this. If you think the length of time you are on holiday in school time could affect the consistency of support, as long as you can provide a regular weekly commitment we can work around this.


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4.    How old are the children?

Coram Beanstalk currently supports children between the ages of 3 and 13. Our Reading 321 programme supports children 5-13 and our early years programme Story Starters supports children aged 3-5.

5.    What books will I read with the children?

Coram Beanstalk provides an engagement pack for every setting we support, which includes different styles of books resources that can be used within the sessions. This includes a pack for the Reading 321 programme and one for the Story Starter programme

6.    Do you get training and what does the training cover?

Initial online training will set you up to make a strong start with the children in school using the knowledge and skills you already have. When you have started as a reading helper, further training is provided that helps you to develop and enhance your support for the children. You'll get invited to regional conferences and get access to MyCoramBeanstalk, our online volunteer portal that includes links to lots of useful resources and guidance.

You can see some highlights from our regional conferences below.

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7.    Will the school or early years setting be local to me?

We aim to match reading helpers with a school or early years setting no further than five miles away from their home. You will be asked about your ability to travel and the locations that are accessible to you when you submit your application and can discuss this further when we speak to you. 

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8.    When would I start in a school?

Reading helpers start in schools all the way through the year, we are not restricted to volunteers only starting in September. Reading helpers regularly start in schools anytime from September through to July. Our aim is to get reading helpers started in school as soon as we can we can once online training has been successfully completed and DBS and references are returned.

9.    Do I need any qualifications or previous experience to be a reading helper?

No experience or qualifications connected to working with children are required to become a reading helper. We just need you to have a passion for working with children and giving them the best possible chance of improving their confidence and literacy, as well as being fluent in both spoken and written English. Our reading helper role description outlines in more detail what we are looking for from volunteers.

10.    How much support will I receive from Coram Beanstalk when placed in a school?

As a reading helper you’ll have full training before starting in school giving you confidence in your skills to run one to one sessions independently. You’ll have access to MyCoramBeanstalk, our online portal containing lots of resources and activity sheets to help make sessions fun and productive. We’ll also connect you into our reading community where you can share experiences and learn from other volunteers.

Apply to volunteer now!