28th September 2017 

National children’s charity Beanstalk has launched a new project in Kent and Medway to double the number of children supported by trained volunteer reading helpers in primary schools by the end of the 2018-19 academic year.

Launched at Mote House in Maidstone to local schools and education leaders, Beanstalk announced how the ‘Read and Achieve’ project will help tackle children’s illiteracy across the county, which continues to be a persistent problem.  According to the latest SATs results, more than 4,300 primary school leavers in Kent did not reach the expected standard in reading. In Medway, this figure was just over 1,000.

The project, which is being generously funded by Kent Community Foundation, will identify and work with primary schools in areas of Kent and Medway where reading levels are at their lowest among children aged 4-11. The aim is to recruit an additional 360 volunteer reading helpers, taking the number of children supported in Kent and Medway to over 2,000 by the end of the academic year 2018-19.

Speaking at the launch, Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Area Manager for Beanstalk South East, said:

“The launch of the Read and Achieve project is extremely significant in Kent and Medway, because it is going to directly benefit so many children who struggle with reading.  Over the last 25 years that Beanstalk has been working with schools in the county, we have achieved a great deal. However, there are still so many children who find reading  a challenge and we need to ensure they leave primary school with the best possible chances of leading successful lives.”

Beanstalk is now urging volunteers to come forward from all areas of Kent and Medway to help read with children in schools for just three hours a week.

“As a Beanstalk reading helper you will be trained by us and will have access to our fantastic resources to help pass on your love of reading to help a child read, grow and thrive.  We are also currently reaching out to primary schools to sign up to the project and urge Head Teachers to get in contact with us if they would like their school to benefit from this new programme.  Beanstalk provides trained reading helpers who each  support three children, twice a week for a year and ultimately promote reading for pleasure to children who  have fallen behind,” adds Malou.

The ‘Read and Achieve’ project has been made possible thanks to a generous grant awarded to Beanstalk by Kent Community Foundation, a charitable foundation which connects generous people, families and businesses with local causes that make a genuine difference in the community.  Funds have kindly been donated by the Crown Charitable Fund and the Amity Fund both administered by Kent Community Foundation.

Speaking at the event at Mote House Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive Kent Community Foundation, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the Read and Achieve project. This will help to turn around the life chances of children who are already struggling and will really make a difference to their long term opportunities for education and employment. Both the Crown Charitable Fund and Amity Fund are passionate about supporting this type of local education initiative and we hope schools and volunteers from around the county will be keen to take part.”

Beanstalk is a national charity and has supported children in schools in Kent for 25 years.  It places trained reading helpers in local primary schools.  Each volunteer supports three children and sees each child for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. Reading helpers tailor resources to the individual child’s interest and play games with them so they can develop their reading skills and wider language acquisition in a fun and engaging way.