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Liverpool volunteer inspires children to read as part of charity initiative

TRAINED reading helpers have begun supporting children in Liverpool nurseries and pre-schools as part of the Story Starters reading programme. The project involves volunteers from the local community visiting local early years settings twice a week to help children aged three to five become ready to read.

Penny is among the very first Story Starter reading helpers in England and has been working with children at an early years setting in Liverpool supported by Beanstalk – a national children’s literacy charity which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to work one-to-one with children aged 3 to 13 in a variety of ways, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers.

Penny supports three pre-schoolers one-to-one, two times a week for 20 minutes at a time. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support.

Penny’s story in her own words:

“I am volunteering in the nursery class of a school in Old Swan and I joined Story Starters in 2017 following my interview in June. Since retiring from my nursery nursing job in 2015 (after 43 years) I had been looking for something to inspire me again.

“When I read about Story Starters, I thought that it would be a great opportunity to contribute to an interesting project that was in my field of knowledge. The best part of volunteering is working with children again and seeing their reactions to a story. I have also loved being able to add to the story with interactive props. I have had a lot of favourite moments so far in my volunteering, but I love teaching children new words and hearing them remember and use those words again appropriately.

“The children seem happy to join me in the sessions as well and they like what they have been reading. Many other children have requested to join in too. If you have ever been ‘lost’ in a book, becoming a Story Starter volunteer is for you! If you have ever laughed, cried, been shocked, annoyed or fascinated by a book or related to a character, place or situation in a book – this is for you! You can help to awaken those feelings in children, so they can expand their knowledge and range of experiences.”

 Story Starters is a collaborative project between children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (University of Liverpool) which was launched one year ago and aims to give children the support they need to develop their language and reading skills. Research has shown that children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months ahead in their literacy and language skills, compared with children who don’t.

Christine Braithwaite is the Area Manager for Beanstalk in the North West of England said: “We are thrilled to have our Story Starter volunteers making such a positive impact in Liverpool and the surrounding areas. We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to receive support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive. We really need more people like Penny to come forward as volunteers and help change the lives of children in the community.”

Volunteers are also needed for Beanstalk’s 321 reading programme which already successfully runs in a number of schools across the North West of England and has been making a positive impact on children’s reading confidence and ability. This involves volunteers supporting three primary school aged children (aged 5-11), two times a week for 30 minutes in a local primary school for one academic year. One-to-one sessions enable the reading helper to tailor each session to the child’s specific needs and to pass on the magic of stories and books. 

To find out more about becoming a Story Starter volunteer or a reading helper in a local primary school:


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