Children's literacy support charity celebrates its 40th birthday

The Shropshire branch of a national charity that enables primary school children to gain confidence from improved literacy, through the sustained support of trained volunteers, recently celebrated the organisation’s 40th birthday.

Beanstalk, formerly known as Volunteer Reading Help, was originally founded in 1973 by Susan Belgrave MBE. Established in 1999, the Shropshire area office is one of 17 in the UK and currently provides 116 volunteers of all ages to 54 primary schools throughout the county.

The volunteers all go through the same application process and are vetted and trained under Beanstalk’s committed-to-safeguarding policy. Once approved, they each offer up to three children from year one to year six, fun and informative one-to-one support, two afternoons per week, for a minimum of one academic year. Their passion and enthusiasm for reading inspires the children they support.

Alison Horton, volunteer services manager at Beanstalk Shropshire, explains that while the intention and delivery is the same as it was in 1973, up until recently Beanstalk has still remained a well-kept secret.  She said: “One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the advent of the internet. This has enabled us to reach potential new volunteers and schools who either find us at online at or or via Twitter @beanstalk_salop. As a result our volunteer numbers are growing, which means more children can benefit from our help, whether they are either falling behind, lacking in confidence or perhaps have more serious reading difficulties .”

Commenting on the personal sense of satisfaction to be gained from seeing the children progress, she continues: “Beanstalk reading helpers find that the experience is very rewarding and many have been volunteering with us for several years. For this reason we would always encourage anyone considering volunteering to get in contact with us, so we can continue helping our children to read, grow and succeed.”


Pete White Pete White

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