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Save the Children child literacy and Beanstalk campaign: From washing machine manuals to a love of fiction #ChangeTheStory

Born to Read: Beanstalk and Change the Story

This was Michael Gove.

We must make sure every child is given the gift of being able to read. A gift that should be every child’s inheritance.

michael gove

Yes, I know. Maybe Michael Gove isn’t your favourite person.

Perhaps sometimes you don’t agree with everything he does and says.

However, you would be hard-pressed not to be able to echo this sentiment. As he said himself, the reason for him talking to us all transcended party politics.

It sure as hell did. It was far more important than that.

He was speaking at a campaign event at the House of Lords for Save the Children that I had the pleasure of attending yesterday.

Born to Read - Michael Gove and Change the Story

The charity are working the Beanstalk in their joint Born to Read campaign to #ChangeTheStory….to combat the:

“Iron clad link between poor literacy and poverty later in life.” (Michael Gove)

The power of reading was evidenced everywhere at the event from the simple to the extremely poignant….

Reading as a calming influence

Books were the first place that the audience went to calm the children that weren’t too keen on the speakers that the adults were intently listened to. As a place to be transported to, and to calm down – there is nothing quite like a book to soothe a writhing toddler.

Reading as a way to strive for better

Lauren Child spoke very eloquently to the room of the pleasure she has in using her role as an author to reach out to children that otherwise haven’t had the best experiences in their short lives. She told us of a middle teacher in Mexico who started a refuge for kids to enable those with the toughest starts to have hope. He set up a school and in return for giving up solvent abuse and drugs young children were allowed to go to school where they were taught to read. Lauren shared her books with these street kids. In particular books like “That Pesky Rat” which the children identified with. Some of the kids from the refuge are now going on to University. Amazing.

Born to Read: Change the Story

Reading as a place of joy

Finally, Sue Porto, the CEO of Beanstalk, a literacy charity helping Save the Children with the Born to Read campaign, explained about a particularly little boy one of her volunteers helped. He didn’t seem to be engaging with books; they had tried everything, but he wasn’t keen. The volunteer asked him to bring in a book that HE wanted to read with her.

He brought in a washing machine manual.

This didn’t phase the volunteer. It was a place to start. He wanted to fix things just like his Dad did.

I a few weeks, they moved on to a Lawnmower manual. From there he was hooked on fiction.

These are just some examples of how being able to read can do everything from calm a child, to flick on a light in a child’s head so that they are able to view the world, or even take on the world, in a very different way. Perhaps even with a completely different view of themselves and their place within society.

Why is Reading so important?

These are the kinds of stories that have inspired the Save the Children and Beanstalk’s Born the Read Campaign literacy campaign to help reach 23,000 more disadvantaged children through volunteers, and government campaigns so that those children will not to be left behind.

They are looking to recruit 20,000 change makers to help. Could YOU be a change maker?

1 in 6 children who fall behind in their reading levels at age 7, fail to get enough GCSEs. Not all children have parents who have the time, skills or inclination to read to them. I am an ex school librarian; my kids have been surrounded by books, and the example of me reading all their lives.

For those that don’t get this start in life, the lack of qualifications and reading skills can leave children feeling worthless. This stops them from reaching their full potential. Not only that, it also makes them more likely to become another person living below the poverty line.

Born to read: Beanstalk

Become a change maker and help

Save the Children and Beanstalk need our help to give these kids a better start, so they can strive for an even better future. Perhaps you can become a change maker; a volunteer that enables our deprived children to reach for the stars and beyond.

I spent a wonderful time chatting to some of the amazing London volunteers for Beanstalk; whose passion for the children and reading is a joy to behold. One particular volunteer was trying to decide which book to read with one of her Year one children. The boy had found Green Eggs and Ham a particular favourite. Who can blame him with the wonderful repetition, and rhyming within the book; captivating for a child just beginning to grasp their phonics. Children can identify well with us mums trying to get them to eat their food as well!

The discussion brought me back to my kids loving this book, and I was, thanks to my phone, able to remember that There is a Wocket in My Pocket is in a similar style. Hopefully, this little boy will now find out all about the Dellar’s in the Cellar next time they meet :-D

Small moments like this make a volunteers time worthwhile. That child will continue to love reading thanks to the efforts of his Beanstalk lady. You could help in exactly the same way; changing a child’s perception of reading for the better.

To help these type of moments to continue, and to grow, please do follow #ChangeTheStory on Twitter and visit the Save the Children’s Born to Read campaign website and perhaps join up giving your time, or money to the campaign so that we can all give more of these children a chance to move from Lawn Mower manual to Dr Seuss and beyond.

You could change a child’s life and perspective of themselves forever.

For more posts on #ChangeTheStory; do pop on over to these other blogs too:

Helen is a mum to two, social media consultant, and website editor; and this site is (we think) the only Social Enterprise parenting magazine! Since giving up being a business analyst when juggling travel, work and kids proved too complicated, she founded KiddyCharts so she could be with her kids, and use those grey cells at the same time. KiddyCharts has reach of over 1.1million across social and the site. The blog works with big family brands (including travel) to help promote their services, as well as offering free resources to parents of kids under 10. It gives 51%+ profits to Reverence for Life, who fund a number of important initiatives in Africa, including bringing running water and basic equipment to a school in Tanzania. Helen has worked as a digital marketing consultant (IDM qualified) with various organisations, including Channel Mum, Truprint, Talk to Mums, and Micro Scooters. She loves to be creative in the brand campaigns she works on. Get in touch TODAY!

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Lisa Thorne

Thursday 3rd of March 2016

Wow! Amazing post , its my pleasure to read such an inspirational post . Thanks for sharing

Justin Hamilton

Tuesday 2nd of February 2016

I absolutely love programs like this because reading books literally saved my , gave me hope and introduced a whole new world that I could have never imagined on my own.


Friday 24th of January 2014

We are so lucky to be able to promote such an amazing project and good to spend some time with you and have a proper chat.

Actually Mummy...

Wednesday 22nd of January 2014

There were so many nuggets of inspiration said by Gove and everyone else in that room - so inspiring (and I never thought I'd say that about Michael Gove)!


Wednesday 22nd of January 2014

Great post! It was an inspirational day. I still feel like I'm processing it all. I'm delighted so many influential people are trying to improve children's chances and understand reading is the start of it all.

(PS also was so lovely to finally meet you! )

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