Change the Story and VIPs


The Houses of Parliament. A place of imagination, somewhere that ignites passions and strong views. Earlier in the week, I stood in a room at the House of Lords, amongst children and teachers, Lords, Ladies, MPs and Authors and I got to meet some very inspirational people; VIPs.

There were speakers, each thought-provoking, each on a the theme of how critical reading is. It’s a fact that cannot be argued with.

L-R, Sue Porto CEO Beanstalk, Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, Lauren Child Author; Charlie & Lola, Justin Forsyth, CEO Save the Children, Lord Listowel, Peer.

L-R, Sue Porto CEO Beanstalk, Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State for Education, Lauren Child Author; Charlie & Lola, Justin Forsyth, CEO Save the Children, Lord Listowel, Peer.

I know, from my own son’s reading journey, it is the key that unlocks so much more. He stares wide-eyed at books on space able to read the names of the planets. The impact is so much greater because the exploration is his.

School teaches children the reading basics, as a parent you teach your child to read. Time spent, regularly, listening to your child labour over letters and sounds. Like any skill practice makes improvement, it builds confidence and ability. But not every child has that chance.

There comes a point when their reading becomes fluent and they step off, untethered into books of their own choosing. Books unlock knowledge, books can make a child roar with laughter. Books can teach them about places they may never visit. Or fire the kindle of imagination that will one day find them heading to that very place. Books can be a shelter from a storm, a place of escape.

Save the children have found that many low-income families are struggling in the current economic climate and that their children aren’t getting the same support at home. One in six of parents in low-income groups say they are now working longer hours. For some families, there simply isn’t enough hours in the day and consequently children fall behind. Poverty is linked to low educational achievements, there are parents out there who lack the skills to read with their children. Save the Children and Beanstalk want to break that cycle.

I met these inspirational women; very important people.

Beanstalk reading volunteers

Beanstalk reading volunteers

These are the women who pick up those children who are falling behind. Beanstalk Reading volunteers. Spending time in schools working with one to one with children, listening to them read, week on week, across the school year. Supporting individual children from disadvantaged backgrounds. They told me, with great pride, of the children they read with, how those children develop and blossom as their reading confidence grows.

What of the ones that don’t get picked up? By age 7 for many children life chances are set. There is a link between education at 7 and later attainment.

Save the Children found: Fewer than one in six children from low-income families who have fallen behind by the age of seven will go on to achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths.

Better-off children in the same situation have a one in four change of getting five good GCSEs including English and Maths.

We know that for many, achievement of GCSEs (or not) impacts of life long opportunities.
Save the Children working in partnership with Beanstalk want to reach more children and change the story for our poorest children. We cannot fail children at seven, we need to give them the early support gives them the very best chance in life.

It’s a campaign that needs political support from across parties. It is very much about getting the message out there. Reaching people who might become volunteer readers, reaching people who are able to fundraise. Reaching campaigners, those passionate about the importance of learning to read for all children.

Get involved and spread the word. Share this link: Save the Children. Change the Story.

Change the story



  1. Actually Mummy...

    Beautifully put Gemma. I knew how important this was, and supported it wholeheartedly, but I didn’t expect to find myself so inspired by the reading volunteers we met. Not just busy parents finding a spare hour for their child’s class, but individuals who are genuinely committed to helping these children unlock their imaginations and their futures. We need more like them!

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  4. Emma

    What amazing people.  I can understand why they do it though, it is addictive.  I have helped out at school since mine two started, and I love listening to children read… Seeing the enjoyment when they suddenly “get” a word or a sentence is just amazing.   Such an important cause! 🙂 

    1. helloitsgemma

      thank you – forgotten we’d got the Faraway Tree and inspired by Bibsey Mama are reading it. 
      Until you see your child learn to read I think you fail to appreciate what an amazing thing it is. 

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