Emma Jacox, Head of School at Lings Primary School in Northampton, explains how Coram Beanstalk's 321 Reading Programme has helped inspire reading enjoyment through the help of volunteers trained by charity:

The aim

Initially we wanted to raise the attainment of our targeted children in reading. However, over time it has become clear that Coram Beanstalk offers so much more than this. What I now see as the great strength of our reading helpers is, not only do they support the children in accessing texts and the mechanics of reading, but they also build their confidence and inspire them with a love of reading and joy of sharing a story.

When I arrived at the school in 2014 we had one Coram Beanstalk reading helper. It was clear to see the impact that she was having, not only on the children's reading progress but also on their wellbeing. The children looked forward to seeing her every week and having that time with her. Over time we have taken on more and more volunteers. The school day is very busy and it’s not always easy for teachers to devote the one-to-one time some children need.

The strategy

We use Coram Beanstalk’s Reading 321 programme and currently have eight reading helpers who come in to the school twice a week. Each volunteer spends 30 minutes with three children each on a one-to-one basis. Together they share books, discuss the themes, characters and storylines and have book-based fun.

We have found our volunteers to be professional and kind and a great asset to our school.

The opportunity for children to have this one-to-one time with a supportive adult is so important. For some of the children it is about giving their reading a boost, for others it can support them if they don't have the opportunities to read much at home. It helps to build their confidence, develops a passion for reading and encourages enjoyment of sharing stories and conversations.

The children that we choose to receive this support are selected very carefully. For some children it may be that they need extra support with their reading or perhaps they don't have opportunities at home to share stories. Sometimes we may select a child because they lack confidence or are very quiet - they often gain a lot from having the opportunity to practise their reading skills in a safe space away from the classroom.

The outcomes

We consistently see improvements in children's reading ability when they have spent time with a Coram Beanstalk reading helper and this is evidenced by their performance back in class as well as in more formal reading tests.

Sometimes this is a great improvement, sometimes it's much smaller. However, often the impact is far wider reaching. Spending time with a reading helper impacts greatly on children's wellbeing and their confidence. For children who struggle to keep up in a busy classroom, this is invaluable time for them. Our teachers have also noted an improvement in language skills and vocabulary amongst children who read with a volunteer. Part of the reading session involves talking about the book, so in turn this improves children's communication skills.

We have had children who have started with a reading helper in the very early stages of reading, still sounding out and struggling to blend words who after a year have become fluent readers. For some, the improvements are more subtle. We had one very quiet child who never contributed to classroom reading lessons - after a term with a volunteer, his teacher reported that he was more engaged in class and was developing the confidence to contribute to class discussions.

Other children have told us quite simply that it’s the best part of their week is when they read with their volunteer!As a school we feel that it is good value for money, not only for the support in reading for children, but also for all of the other reasons mentioned above. If we can instil a love of reading within our children then we are setting them up to be lifelong learners.

I would recommend Coram Beanstalk to other schools. We have several reading helpers now and they bring their own special spirit to our school community. They are recognised by children and staff alike throughout the school and are a pleasure to have around.

Find out how Coram Beanstalk can help support your school with a variety and reading programmes.