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Supporting children to read, grow & succeed

7th May 2013

Sue Porto

Both Usborne and Beanstalk are celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2013 and to celebrate this, Usborne is proud to have chosen Beanstalk as their charity of the year.

Beanstalk is a national charity that recruits, vets, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading.

We've already raised £479.44 to-date to support Beanstalk, and hope to steadily increase this total, to meet our target by the end of 2013.

Here Beanstalk's CEO, Sue Porto, explains some more about why Beanstalk's work is so important:

"When Beanstalk began in 1973, we had just seven reading helpers working in two London schools. Driven by the determination and enthusiasm of our many and diverse supporters we now find ourselves forty years later with a network of over 2,100 active reading helpers supporting 6,400 children across the country.

To celebrate our 40th anniversary we have created a Charter for Children's Literacy, which calls on government to take action, as well as setting out ways in which the children’s publishing industry can help us in our life-changing work.

Reading for a better life

Being able to read and write helps us to understand our own identities – something that is central to culture at many levels. The damage done by illiteracy is not to be underestimated, with more and more cases of school exclusion, truancy and behavioural difficulties – into adulthood, low literacy has been associated with poor mental health. 60% of the prison population is said to have difficulties in basic literacy skills, while 48% of those involved in the summer riots in 2011 left primary school without achieving the required standard.

With the startling statistic that one in eight children in the UK are currently leaving primary school unable to read to the required standard, urgent action is needed. As Peter Usborne, Managing Director of Usborne Publishing, warns in the charter “if you can’t do reading, you can’t do school – and if you can’t do school, you can’t do life.”

Through collaboration and creative thinking, we can break the cycle of illiteracy that is damaging our children's personal, social and economic prospects.

Reading support at school

All our Beanstalk reading helpers work alongside teachers to make sure that children are given a clear opportunity to read, grow and succeed. Each volunteer works with three children and sees each for two 30 minute sessions a week during term-time for a year. Our reading helpers come from many walks of life but are united in their energy, empathy and determination to break that cycle.

We believe that every primary school in the country deserves to have a government-funded reading helper.

We want teachers to have a range of approaches at their disposal, and the flexibility to allow creativity to play a central role in learning. We are calling for reform of the primary curriculum to reduce testing and make this possible. Incorporating drama, dance, art and music into projects gives children who are reluctant readers another way to explore works of literature, and local artists can help by visiting schools – a morning of energy and activity is followed by a session in which children write short plays, stories or poems using their new ideas and vocabulary.

Working together with publishers

Finally, we are encouraging publishers to continue their investment in children’s literature to encourage the next generation of children to become confident readers. By providing a range of eye catching titles, enriching storylines and engaging authors, this gives primary teachers and reading helpers the very broadest possible range of books with which to engage under-confident or unenthusiastic readers.

We are also calling for publishers to make the most of the full range of print and digital platforms to help inspire reading in children and provide works that parents are keen to revisit time and time again. The Usborne Foundation, the charity founded by Peter Usborne, is making excellent use of the possibilities of digital publishing with their ‘Teach Your Monster To Read’ game, which has earned positive - and well-deserved - reviews for helping reluctant readers.

I would like to personally thank Usborne Publishing for their continued support of our vital work. Each week several members of Usborne staff volunteer in two primary schools in Farringdon as Beanstalk reading helpers helping local children develop their literacy schools. Furthermore we are delighted that this year, as both Beanstalk and Usborne mark our 40th Anniversaries, to have been chosen to be your Charity Partner. I look forward to hearing all about the fundraising events you have planned and wish you lots of luck.

Thank you for your continued support of our work as together we support children to read, grow and succeed."

If you would like to support Beanstalk and Usborne in our aim, please visit our JustGiving page.