29 March 2018

The first trained reading helpers have begun supporting children in Wandsworth nurseries as part of the new Story Starters reading programme which sees volunteers from the local community visit schools twice a week to help children aged three to five become ready to read.

Jan Thole is among the very first Story Starter reading helpers and has begun working with children at Chesterton Nursery (part of Chesterton School) in Wandsworth supported by Beanstalk - a national children’s literacy charity which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to work one-to-one with children aged 3 to 13 in a variety of ways, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers.

Jan supports three children one-to-one at Chesterton Nursery two times a week for 20 minutes at a time. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support.

She says: “‘I’m delighted to be a part of the first story starters programme in London and so warmly welcomed by Chesterton Nursery and Primary school. As a volunteer I work with three children twice a week. I welcome this opportunity to share my love of books and reading.”

Katherine Williams is ECAR teacher at Chesterton School which currently has ten Beanstalk volunteers who support pupils in Years One to Six with reading. 

“We are delighted to be able extend this support into our Early Years by welcoming our first Story Starters volunteer, Jan, into our nursery. Jan has quickly become one of our team and a very popular one.  It's a joy to see the faces of her three readers light up when she enters the nursery with a selection of beautiful picture books and props under her arm. The rabbit puppet has proved a particular favourite! With Jan, these children are exploring stories and the language used to tell them and are becoming book lovers."

Story Starters is a new collaborative project between children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (University of Liverpool) which was launched in London last year and aims to give children the support they need to develop their language and reading skills. Research has shown that children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months ahead in their literacy and language skills, compared with children who don’t.

Lindsay Fox is the Area Manager for Beanstalk in London:

“Beanstalk is thrilled to have placed our first Story Starter volunteers in Wandsworth. We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to receive support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive. It is really worrying to hear recent figures that the proportion of toddlers being read to every day is in decline - a significant threat to child development. We are now seeking more people to come forward as volunteers and we have our next Story Starters training and selection day on Wednesday 11th April in London. Please get in touch with Beanstalk if you would like to volunteer and change the lives of children in the community.”

Beanstalk works across London to support children with reading. To find out more about becoming a Story Starter reading helper, or to book a place at its next training and selection day in London on Wednesday 11th April, please: