Celebrating 50 years of Coram Beanstalk

  • 26 September 2023

Today (26 September), Coram celebrates the 50th anniversary of its reading volunteer programme, Coram Beanstalk, with the publication of a new report, ‘50 Years of Reading Results’, setting out the impact for children over the decades. 

Coram Beanstalk is a national children’s reading charity, providing one-to-one reading support through trained volunteers to children aged three to 13 years. Since being founded in 1973*, Coram Beanstalk has helped more than 250,000 children to build their reading ability, confidence and enjoyment, enabling them to thrive into adulthood.  

Today’s report highlights the impact of Coram Beanstalk’s work on children’s lives, with 97% of partner schools reporting that their children have an improved attitude to learning as a result of receiving support, while 96% observe improved communication skills and improved overall wellbeing.  

This support has proven even more vital in recent years, with many children struggling with learning and anxiety following disruption and isolation during the pandemic. In addition, many children lack support with reading at home, with research showing that only one in five have access to a quiet space at home where they can work or read**, and 37% of parents reporting they now have less time to play and read with their children.***  

Schools reiterate the importance of dedicated, regular one-to-one support with a trusted adult, as one teacher says: “The young person in question has had a difficult year and not only has the reading helper been significant in supporting the reading ability of this person, they have also been a huge support emotionally and with the child’s wellbeing. They have been a fantastic role model for the child and have built a positive relationship at a time when the child needed it.” 

Today’s report highlights the huge contribution made by volunteers who deliver this support for children. Over the life of Coram Beanstalk, there have been at least 12.6m volunteer hours provided by 77,000 individuals, reaching more than a quarter of a million children. This is the equivalent contribution to the school economy of £131.4m at the National Minimum Wage and £195.5m at the current rate for a tutor.  

As well as its core programme, Coram Beanstalk has extended its approach into secondary schools through its Reading Leaders programme. This initiative enables young people aged 14-18 to develop their skills by becoming a reading mentor to younger children in their school, who benefit from having a role model who champions reading skills and confidence. 

Amy Lewis, Head of Coram Beanstalk, says: “We are proud to celebrate 50 years of giving children skills for the future. Being able to read is a fundamental life skill, without which children would be unable to access opportunities that life brings them.  

“As children recover from the effects of the pandemic, and with one in four children still leaving primary school without the reading skills they need to thrive, the need for this support is as pressing as ever. It’s thanks to the dedication of our wonderful volunteer community and funders that this work is possible, and together we’ll work hard to continue to open doors for children through the power of reading.” 

The lifelong impact of Coram Beanstalk’s work is illuminated through the story of Jade, who as a little girl, struggled with her reading because of dyslexia and received one-to-one sessions with Coram Beanstalk volunteer Jill. 

Jade is now 19 and studying at university. She has fond memories of her reading sessions with Jill and is thankful for the significant role this support played in her formative years. Jade says: “Having Jill was one of the best things that ever happened to me, still to this day I’m very grateful for having her. She opened my world to new adventures.” 

Read the full report below:

*Coram Beanstalk was founded in 1973 by Susan Belgrave and originally called Volunteer Reading Help before becoming Beanstalk in 2013. The charity joined the Coram Group in 2019 and became Coram Beanstalk 

**National Literacy Trust, February 2023 

***UNICEF UK, September 2023