Jack and the Beanstalk is a story about planting magic beans and starting an adventure – it’s a great metaphor for reading. I saw first-hand how books can sow seeds of imagination in children’s minds when I visited Platt’s Heath Primary School a few weeks ago. I was there to read with the children, along with volunteers from a charity - appropriately named Beanstalk!
Beanstalk trains volunteers to read one-on-one with children who have fallen behind on their literacy. I met Diana, who reads with three pupils at Platts Heath twice a week. She says that the most important thing is to build a child’s confidence and help them enjoy books: “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!”
She says she gets as much out of volunteering with Beanstalk as the children do: “I am really proud to be a Beanstalk reading helper and regularly talk to others and encourage them to do it too. If you can’t read, you can’t grow, and that is why this is so important to me.” The headteacher of Platts Heath, Piers Anscombe, agrees: “Reading is fundamental to all children’s education. 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.”
Great progress has been made on literacy since the introduction of phonics checks in 2010, and the UK has climbed up international rankings for reading and writing. But there are still too many children who are behind on their reading. The latest SAT results show that 75% of children achieved the required standard for reading – but that still means a quarter aren’t getting the expected score.
Beanstalk’s work is so important, because if a child leaves primary school unable to read, they’ll struggle even more at secondary at school, and if they then leave school without any qualifications life is going to be tough. We should never give up on anyone, but so much better to make sure every child can read by the time they leave primary school.