There are few moments more rewarding than when a six-year-old looks up at you in boggle-eyed amazement that she’s just managed to read a whole page without a falter.
Or when a smiling teacher tells you that the little girl you’ve been helping to read all year has unexpectedly passed her English SATs.
I’ve had several moments like this – and they are, quite simply, thrilling. I’ve also had a lot of fun as, twice a week, I go into a primary school to listen to six- and seven-year-olds read, then play literacy games with them.
If you think you might be interested in doing this too, then the charity Beanstalk (www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk) would love to hear from you. They are always looking for new volunteers. They provide a short training course and lots of books and games. Most reading helpers go into a school twice a week and work with three children one-on-one for half an hour each. They usually work with the same children for the whole year.
If, like me, you’re writing fiction for children, this has a huge side benefit: you find out what your audience really enjoy reading. But the real value is that a child who might otherwise have very little one-on-one help receives it twice a week from someone who really wants them to succeed.