In which we sit in on a Beanstalk session

We recently witnessed how a school has turned itself around. Our Lady of the Visitation Primary School in Greenford realised about a year ago that they had to take action to improve their reading. They resolved to make reading the centre of school life, to turn themselves into a reading school and brought in an independent reading consultant. Now there are inviting reading corners in classrooms, the school as a whole demonstrates that everyone—adults and children—enjoys reading—teachers have signs on their doors to say what they are reading; they have whole classes reading a single novel together and use a great reciprocal reading programme where every child has a role—a looker upper, clarifier, boss, questioner—everyone gets to participate. It was wonderful to see how a school can transform itself to become a place where reading for pleasure is nourished and flourishes.

We were there specifically to sit in on a Beanstalk volunteer reading session. Our Lady of the Visitation uses its pupil premium to help fund Beanstalk helpers. The school has been using Beanstalk for 3 years now. Reading sessions take place in their light, airy and inviting library. Over the year that they work together, the reader and child develop a very special relationship—this is of particular help if, for any number of reasons, the child is not getting such individual support at home or s/he might have an educational special need. The volunteer and child pluck a book and a game to share out of the special red Beanstalk box. At the end of the year the child is awarded a Beanstalk certificate.

Jude, the Beanstalk volunteer, fetched her pupil– a year 4 child- from class and the session began.

It was immediately obvious how much both sides enjoy their sessions. Sometimes Jude reads to the child, sometimes they read together, sometimes the child hardly realises s/he is reading—both Jude and the story are so engaging. Jude keeps a reading record to note down her pupil’s specific likes and dislikes and whether there are any particular barriers to reading. In the course of the year the child grows not only in their reading capability but also in confidence, self esteem, self worth and as a person.

Give a Book was delighted to be able to sit in on their session. But then the child challenged us to have a go at reading ourselves—we did so without disgrace. But then we were further challenged to a game of Pelmanism . I’m sorry to report that we were trounced. Even so it was joyful encounter and a privilege to sit on a Beanstalk reading intervention.

For more information about becoming a Beanstalk reading helper click here.


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