Booking the time to help pupils at Tettenhall school

Eager young readers at a Tettenhall school are receiving a helping hand thanks to charity volunteers.

Mandip Dhanjal and Annabelle Kisby, aged 10, at St Michael’s Cof E, Tettenhall
Mandip Dhanjal and Annabelle Kisby, aged 10, at St Michael’s Cof E, Tettenhall

Reading charity Beanstalk has two helpers employed Carillion who visit St Michael’s Church of England Aided Primary School once a week. They work with pupils during one-to-one sessions helping them with their reading as well as playing educational games.

Beanstalk currently has around 110 volunteers helping out in 69 Black Country schools across the Black Country.

The aim is not just to improve their reading skills but also to encourage them to enjoy picking up a book in their spare time.

Mother of two Mandip Dhanjal, aged 42, has volunteered with Beanstalk for two and half years and works with three youngsters aged between seven and 11, spending half an hour with each child. takes time out from her role at Carillion’s in-house insurance department to visit the school.

“I heard about Beanstalk from the other volunteer Yvonne Brown and I thought it was something I would like to do.

She said: “I have young children myself so I know getting them to read can be a challenge.

“It’s something that Carillion are supporting and they give us the time to help in the community in this way,” she said.

“We spend 20 minutes reading and 10 minutes playing games. There is a box of books provided by Beanstalk for them to choose from. As well as helping through the book, we help them understand words they don’t know.

“I like to ask them about what they’ve read too and for a short summary of the book to make sure they aren’t just reading, they are understanding what they are reading too.

“I love working with the children. Reading is very important because it’s the basis for everything. If we can help children with their reading now, it’s going to help them later in life.

“I go to get the children out of class and I see their faces light up. They can’t wait to get started,” added Mrs Dhanjal.

Fellow volunteer Yvonne Brown, 61,who also works at Carillion’s insurance department, described the role as ‘very rewarding’.

“Carillion actively encourages us to volunteer and I love reading myself so I thought it was something I would enjoy.

“I enjoy interacting with the children, seeing them improve and creating a rapport with them. It’s great fun as well,” she said.

Assistant headteacher Liz Morton said: “It’s been very beneficial for the school to have extra adults to help the children with their reading. It gives the children half an hour of one-to-one time which they wouldn’t get if we didn’t have the volunteers coming in.

“It’s also nice for vulnerable children to have this one-to-one time with another adult they can trust and build a relationship with.

“We’ve seen children’s confidence develop and they really look forward to this time. As a school, we have a big focus on reading and having volunteers coming in to listen to some of the children reading means we can devote more time to this.”

Michelle Searle, of Beanstalk, said the charity currently has vacancies for helpers in Sandwell, Dudley, Walsall and Wolverhampton where there a big demand for the service.

She said: “Our volunteers feel such satisfaction when they see the children they support grow and develop with their support and find it a hugely rewarding role.

“In order to expand our service and help more children learn to read, we need more volunteers. We are looking for people with a passion for reading who can give some of their time to help inspire the next generation of readers.”

As well as volunteers, Beanstalk is also looking to work with more businesses who can allow employees some time to support children.

Anyone interested in using Beanstalk or getting involved in volunteering can call the office on 0121 771 2922 or email birming

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