26 March 2018

A group of students from Churchill Community College in Howdon, Tyne and Wear, have kick-started a new project to help support local primary school children with their reading. As part of the Reading Role Model programme run by national literacy charity Beanstalk, the thirteen students aged 16-18, trained by Beanstalk, are each working with two pupils in a local primary school who are falling behind with their reading.

The students spend 30 minutes of one-to-one support with each child once a week for two terms and read with them, talk about their interests and play games. By providing this regular support and encouragement they will set themselves on the path to a successful future while helping children become more confident and able readers. They will demonstrate their personal skills, ability to help others and enthusiasm for volunteering – all great when applying for university or a job.

Janet Skeen, Area Manager for Beanstalk North East, said:

“Unfortunately many primary school children struggle with learning to read and would benefit from the extra support our volunteers can provide. By placing more reading helpers in schools we can give these children a much greater chance of reaching their full potential. The Reading Role Model programme is a great way for students to gain and demonstrate vital professional and personal skills while also helping Beanstalk support more children that have fallen behind with reading.

“Through our core volunteering programme we place adult volunteers in local primary schools, so it’s really wonderful to offer a similar volunteering opportunity specifically for 16-18 year-olds. The children love it and respond really well to having time with young adults who can really relate to them. All in all it benefits everyone involved and we are delighted to see the first few students already meeting the children who they will be working with through the course of the year! We are keen to hear from more schools across the North East who would like to get involved, so please contact Beanstalk if you would like your students to get involved in this fantastic opportunity.”

At the end of the programme all the volunteers receive reference letters and, as an Approved Activity Partner for the Duke of Edinburgh Award, it counts towards any DofE programme students are working towards.

The students volunteer at primary schools within the Churchill Community College family of schools which comprise of Battle Hill Primary School, Denbigh Community Primary School, Hadrian Park Primary School and Stephenson Memorial Primary School.

Mark Holt, Deputy Head Teacher at Denbigh Primary School, said:

“The use of ‘Reading Role Models' through Beanstalk has had a positive effect on reading for all the children involved in the programme. The children are not only enjoying their reading but are developing a love for reading that will stay with them long beyond their Primary Education. The 'Reading Role Models' bring passion and excitement to their sessions which invigorates and fills the children with a passion for reading. The children eagerly look forward to their sessions with Beanstalk. One boy, who was previously a reluctant reader, has significantly changed his attitude towards reading...’I never really enjoyed reading until now. Reading with Beanstalk is fun - I just wish I had more sessions.’" 

Jennifer Bruce, Assistant Headteacher at Churchill Community College, said:

“The Reading Role Model programme through Beanstalk has been an amazing opportunity for our Sixth Form students and has both inspired and enthused them. It has contributed to developing their communication and leadership skills as well as giving them the opportunity to work with and develop relationships with a range of students and staff who they wouldn’t normally. The training and support which they have received through Beanstalk has been second to none and all the students involved have thoroughly enjoyed their experience.”  

One of the students volunteering through the programme said: “I am thoroughly enjoying the Reading Role Model project. It has been great to see how my pupil has developed in confidence and in their general interest in reading. To help build trust and a relationship with him, we played some ice breaker and ‘getting to know you’ games at the start. I have received lots of training which I found really useful and it will help me as I start to apply for university.”

Beanstalk works across the North East supporting children with reading in schools. If your school would like to get involved in the Reading Role Model programme, or any of Beanstalk’s other initiatives, please contact Beanstalk on 0845 450 0307.