Reading charity launches ‘Back to School’ campaign to reach more struggling readers across England than ever before

As the new academic year approaches, national reading charity Beanstalk is stepping up its search for volunteers to help reach more children than ever before with its potentially life-changing reading support programmes.

More than 1,000 volunteers are needed nationwide to join Beanstalk’s network of trained reading helpers to help deliver vital one-to-one support to children aged 3-13 who are at risk of falling behind at school without intervention.

According to the latest statistics, 25% of primary school children across England left primary school not meeting the expected levels in reading last year (2017-18). This can have a devastating effect on those children’s futures leading to all sorts of problems in secondary education and beyond.

Beanstalk works to close the gap between struggling readers and their peers by providing trained volunteers who support and encourage children on a one-to-one basis in local early years and primary school settings. The increasing number of schools requesting Beanstalk volunteers and the addition of a new early years programme aimed at tackling the word gap among children aged three-five, means more volunteers are urgently needed in readiness for delivering Beanstalk’s programmes this September.

“The start of the new academic year is always a critical time for us to ensure that we have enough trained volunteers ready to deliver our key programmes across the country,” explains Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive of Beanstalk. “However, this academic year we have more programmes to deliver in more settings than ever before, which means we urgently need to increase the number of volunteers we have so we can reach more children that need this vital support.”

These programmes include Beanstalk’s 321 programme which sees trained reading helpers supporting three primary school children each for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. Through this regular, consistent support the child's approach to learning and enjoyment of reading is transformed.

Story Starters is an early years programme delivered by the charity through which volunteers work one-to-one with children, aged three to five, in two 20-minute sessions a week. Story Starters is a collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (University of Liverpool) which aims to give children the support to ensure that they have the skills to start primary school ready to read. This project has been made possible by £1 million in funding from People's Postcode Lottery Dream Fund which was awarded in January 2017. 

Ginny adds: “It’s a shocking fact that too many children are starting school without essential speaking and language skills which leads to an increasingly uphill struggle when learning to read. Regular and consistent reading support is unfortunately is not always possible in the home environment for a variety of reasons, which is where Beanstalk volunteers come in. We now have a big challenge ahead to recruit and train over 1,000 reading helpers across England by the end of the academic year to pass on the skills, confidence and imagination to help children reach their true potential. If you think you could make a really meaningful difference as a Beanstalk reading helper or a Story Starter volunteer then please get in touch with us.”

For more information or to apply, please visit the website at or call Beanstalk on 0845 450 0301.

Don’t have the time to volunteer?

There are a number of other ways people can support Beanstalk and help children who struggle with reading. If you would like to get involved through either donating, fundraising or through a corporate partnership, please visit the website to find out about a range of other opportunities where you can help rewrite the story for many children across England.

Reading Leaders

Beanstalk’s expanding portfolio of programmes this year includes ‘Reading Leaders’. This peer-to-peer reading support programme enables older students to work one-to-one with younger students to improve their reading skills, attitude towards reading and confidence. Secondary school teachers and staff can find out more at

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For further press information contact Sarah Pickstone,, 07815 707701 or Kate Rumsby,, mobile 07912392275.

Further images of Beanstalk trained reading helpers reading with children are available on request.

About Beanstalk

  • Beanstalk is a national charity that provides one-to-one literacy support to children who struggle with their reading.
  • The charity recruits, trains and supports volunteers to provide one-to-one literacy support in primary schools and early years settings.
  • Beanstalk’s trained reading helpers provide one-to-one support to children aged 3 to 13 in a variety of ways, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers.
  • In the last school year the charity helped 13,500 children across England through the help of 4,200 reading helpers, ensuring children have the skills and confidence to reach their true potential.
  • By 2020-21 Beanstalk aims to help 30,000 children every year, with 8,000 volunteers.
  • For further information visit

About Story Starters 

  • Story Starters is a new programme that provides one-to-one language and communication support to early years' children, ensuring that they have the skills to start primary school ready to read.  
  • Story Starters is a collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, and LuCiD (The ESCR International Centre for Language and Communicative Development). Each partner brings their own skills and experience, meaning that we have specialists leading on each aspect of Story Starters. 
  • Story Starters has been made possible by players of People's Postcode Lottery. People's Postcode Lottery Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1 million in funding in January 2017. 
  • As of July 2018, Story Starters has trained and placed 134 volunteers who are supporting 402 children.  
  • For further information visit

Press release distributed by Pressat on behalf of Coram Beanstalk , on Tuesday 28 August, 2018. For more information subscribe and follow

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Reading charity launches ‘Back to School’ campaign to reach more struggling readers across England than ever before