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The huge impact just 34 reading helpers made in Enfield

We want to get more children reading, and we’ve partnered with Beanstalk, children’s national literacy charity to donate with every purchase of Tidy Books’ products.   Alexis Nielson of Beanstalk talks about the impact that Beanstalk’s reading helpers are making in Enfield, North London, where they are supporting over 100 children, a borough where last year 500 children aged 11+ were unable to read well,  through the commitment of just 34 reading helpers.

Beanstalk works to recruit, train and support reading helpers who volunteer in local primary schools to provide one-to-one support to children who are falling behind with their reading.

Each reading helper works with three children for a whole three terms, spending half an hour with each child on a twice weekly basis and giving them their undivided attention to help build their confidence and improve their reading attainment.

Their sessions are individually tailored to each child to ensure that the session is supportive and enjoyable. By ensuring that the child finds the sessions supportive and fun, reading is able to become an enjoyable experience, and the child’s enthusiasm and confidence is able to flourish.

One of the key areas of growth in the last two years has been Enfield, where shockingly over 500 children left primary school in 2014 unable to read to the required standard.

Thanks to the support of the community and local funders, Beanstalk are now supporting over 100 children throughout Enfield through the commitment of 34 reading helpers. This is a fantastic achievement, as they had very little presence in the borough three years ago.

Beanstalk’s Volunteer Support Worker for the area tells the following story:

“I visited one reading helper at an Enfield primary school for an annual visit, where she told me that one child she helped was a selective mute. The reading helper was completely unaware of this when she first started reading with the child as the child spoke to her (albeit quietly and not very confidently). One day the child came to the session having had a fall in the playground and hurt her knee so the reading helper informed the teacher/TA, who kept asking the reading helper how she knew and the reading helper kept telling the teacher/TA that the child had told her. It was only after quite a few sessions after this incident that the reading helper was told by the school that the child was a selective mute and would not speak to the other children or the teacher or the TA and only to the reading helper! At the reading helper’s annual visit, the child was happy to interact with me about the book she was reading and it was hard to believe that she was a selective mute!”

Beanstalk works with children who are already displaying the early signs of the short-term consequences of illiteracy and aims to help children overcome these problems. This is to ensure that more children leave primary school achieving the expected level in reading attainment and displaying a confidence and enjoyment of reading. They aim to prevent children from continuing on a path to long-term disadvantage and the negative long-term consequences of illiteracy.

Beanstalk recently launched their Annual Report and Impact Report for 2013-14, emphasising how specialist one-to-one support by reading helpers is able to transform the skills and confidence of thousands of young children throughout England.

The report highlights how 93% of the young children supported by Beanstalk reading helpers during the 2013/14 academic year showed meaningful improvement in their reading level. Furthermore, the report also shows that 74% of the children supported improved their reading ability by at least two reading sub-levels, compared to minimal progress the year before receiving one-to-one support.

Sue Porto, chief executive of Beanstalk, added

“This year we will support over 10,000 children across England but there is much more we can do.  I would encourage all those who can help us on our journey to supporting 18,000 children a year by 2018 to get in touch.”

Beanstalk needs more volunteers to help children across England.

If you would like to become a Beanstalk reading helper, then visit, call 020 7729 4087 or email for further information.

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