Children’s literacy charity receives huge funding boost

National children’s charity Beanstalk has received a significant funding boost to double the number of Beanstalk-supported children in Kent schools by the end of the 2018-19 academic year with the aim of raising literacy levels across the county. Beanstalk recruits, vets and trains volunteer reading helpers to provide one-to-one support in primary schools and currently supports just over 1,000 children across Kent and Medway.

Child illiteracy continues to be a persistent problem both nationally and locally. In Kent, 39% of children did not reach the expected standard in reading in the new SATS exams (2015-16). Beanstalk works to help tackle this issue by providing trained reading helpers in local primary schools. Each volunteer supports three children and sees each child for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for at least one academic year. With Beanstalk's support the child's approach to learning and enjoyment of reading is transformed.

A cheque for £60k was presented to Beanstalk by Kent Community Foundation – a charitable foundation which connects generous people, families and businesses with local causes that make a genuine difference in the community. Funds have kindly been donated by the Crown Charitable Fund and the Amity Fund both administered by Kent Community Foundation.

Cheque being presented to Beanstalk by Kent Community Foundation

The money will fund Beanstalk’s ‘Read and Achieve’ project, which will identify and work with primary schools in areas of Kent and Medway where reading levels are at their lowest among children aged 4-11. The ambition is to recruit an additional 360 volunteer reading helpers, taking the number of children supported in Kent to over 2,000 by the end of the academic year 2018-19.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Kent Community Foundation and its funders for awarding us this grant. Their generous donations will enable so many more children to receive one-to-one support across Kent and Medway, helping to improve confidence and attitudes to reading and smoothing the transition to secondary school,” explains Malou Bengtsson-Wheeler, Area Manager for Beanstalk South East.

“Without intervention, the outlook for children struggling with reading is very worrying. It can lead to all sorts of behavioural problems and can affect their future prospects in life and work. Our challenge is to ensure that every child leaves school with the skills and confidence to reach their true potential and control their own lives.”

Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive Kent Community Foundation comments: “We are delighted to continue to support the work of Beanstalk. It is of great concern that child illiteracy levels in Kent and Medway are so high and we fully expect this project to deliver a significant change, which will help provide these children with a real educational boost as they enter secondary education and beyond.”

Melissa Murdoch added: “Amity Fund is thrilled to help Beanstalk reach more children in Kent. Strengthening literacy skills is one of the best investments we can make to help children prepare for and thrive in the future.”

Michael Head, Crown Charitable Fund comments: "Currently every year far too many children within primary schools in Kent and Medway fail to achieve an acceptable level of reading ability. My belief is that one of our society’s prime responsibilities is to ensure that every child is able to read, write and understand numbers well before they leave primary school. We must step forward to help where we see failings."

If you would like to get involved in the ‘Read and Achieve’ project, either to volunteer as a reading helper or to become a Beanstalk partner school, please contact the Kent and Medway office on 01622 662026 or apply via the website www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk.