2 July 2018

Helen Whately MP (Faversham and Mid Kent) has paid a visit to Platts Heath Primary School in Maidstone to promote the importance of reading and to observe first-hand the difference Beanstalk reading helpers are making to children in local schools and early years settings.

Helen was invited to see what national literacy charity Beanstalk is doing to help improve reading across her constituency and wider Kent through the work it does recruiting and training volunteers to support primary school children with reading.

During her visit, Helen met Beanstalk volunteer Diana who is one of two trained reading helpers at Platts Heath Primary School. Diana works with three children, twice a week at the school, providing encouragement and support to promote their enjoyment of reading and develop their skills and confidence. She spends 30 minutes working on a one-to-one basis with the children outside of the classroom and together they read, play and talk. With this support, the child’s approach to learning and enjoyment of reading is often transformed.

Diana said: “I have read with a variety of children with different challenges and in most cases they can read, but what they lack is confidence and reading enjoyment. I see this as a challenge and it’s about finding the right book for the right child. Every book can be an adventure! I really do believe I get as much out of it as the children do and I am really proud to be a Beanstalk reading helper and regularly talk to others and encourage them to do it too. I get lots of support from the local team in Kent and this makes you feel like you are part of a bigger picture. If you can’t read, you can’t grow, and that is why this is so important to me.”

Diana joined the school in September 2014 after receiving her training from Beanstalk and has run reading sessions twice a week, every week, since then. Diana really helps brings the books she reads to life and is a hit with the children and has a little mascot called ‘Eric’ which she takes along with her to help facilitate her sessions with the children.

Piers Anscomb, Head Teacher at Platts Heath Primary School, said:

“Reading is fundamental to all children’s education and that’s how they improve. The more they read, the more experience they get of stories and going on adventures in the mind. Ultimately, it has an effect on their results and their ability to learn and listen. Even with technology, books are still a vital part of their education. Beanstalk helpers are worth their weight in gold. Some of the children said to our Beanstalk helpers ‘I didn’t like reading before but now I do.’ If that affects just one child, then I’m happy. It’s about having a well-rounded child, with a lifelong love of learning and books and who want to carry that on wherever they go and whatever they do.”

Helen Whately, MP for Faversham and Mid Kent:

“I’ve been so impressed by what Beanstalk are doing with the children I’ve met today. Giving the children one-to-one attention is clearly really important and gives them so much more confidence. It’s so important at primary school because when they go to secondary school, they’ve got to be confident readers if they are going to succeed there. I would like to see Beanstalk in all primary schools in my area.”

Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Area Manager for Beanstalk South East, said:

“Beanstalk reading helpers have a direct impact on changing the life of a child by spending just three hours a week, giving them the skills, confidence and imagination they need to succeed in life. We are delighted that Helen has taken a keen interest in our work and wants to support and promote literacy in the South East, particularly as demand for our reading interventions increases and the need for more reading helpers across the South East grows.”

Currently there are over 300 Beanstalk reading helpers, supporting over 1,000 children in 160 school settings across the South East including dozens of schools in Helen’s constituency area of Mid Kent and Faversham.

Kent Community Foundation and local businesses like Southern Water have supported Beanstalk with funding, and reading helpers use resources from the Kent library services in Faversham and in Maidstone.

Beanstalk needs more compassionate and caring members of the local community that would like to volunteer as reading helpers across the South East. For more information or to apply, please visit our volunteering pages or call 0845 450 0307.

Can’t volunteer but want to help?

If you don’t have time to volunteer please consider supporting Beanstalk in other ways such as fundraising or donating to help the charity reach more children across the region. Find out more.