Alumni stories – Coram Beanstalk

18th January 2021

During 2021, IICF UK is celebrating the charities we have helped over the past five years. We’ve been fortunate to speak with our alumni on the work they are doing and how IICF UK has helped them.

This January we are celebrating Coram Beanstalk.

In 1973, Coram Beanstalk was founded by President Susan Belgrave. The charity was originally called Volunteer Reading Help before becoming Beanstalk in 2012. In February 2019, the charity joined the Coram group of charities and became Coram Beanstalk.

Coram Beanstalk’s one-to-one reading support is proven to help improve the reading attainment, self-confidence and enjoyment of reading of children who are struggling or are reluctant readers.

The IICF UK’s Associate Board had an opportunity to sit down with Coram Beanstalk to learn more about the charity. The Q&A from the sessions is below.

For more information, please visit\

“The IICF has been vital in helping us deliver urgent reading support.”

Q&A – Getting to know Coram Beanstalk

Who are the main people your charity helps, and how does your charity do this?
Coram Beanstalk helps children aged 3 to 13 in early years, primary and secondary education to develop their reading skills.

The charity does this through:

  • Volunteers – who provide consistent support to children who have fallen behind and need more intensive or longer-term help to change their attitude to reading and build their reading skills, ability and confidence.
  • School schemes and peer mentoring programmes – which bring the motivation of the wider school community, and of older students, to help ensure that children at risk of falling behind or becoming reluctant to read stay on track.
  • Professionals and wider community groups – who want to understand how a reading for pleasure approach can enhance their own practice.
  • Parents, grandparents and others who help children with their reading at home – who want to get even better at doing it.

Are there any specific projects you charity does that have been particularly successful?
Coram Beanstalk’s Reading 321 reading helpers use our Reading Records to demonstrate children’s progress under the following three outcomes:

  1. Children accelerate in their reading progress, narrowing the gap with their peers.
  2. Children increase in confidence and attitudes to reading and wider learning.
  3. Children increase their enjoyment of reading.

In 2016, we developed our early years’ offer for children aged 3-5 and won £1 million from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

How do grants from organisations help your charity?
The grants provide direct services to children and enable us to fund our vital work. This may include funding the cost of volunteer training support or a pack of brilliant books for each of our schools.

Your charity was awarded an IICF grant, which project did the grant help? How has the charity changed and grown?
The 2019 grant of £10k helped us reach children in Northwest England and deliver key support to children in the area. During January and December 2019, we supported more than 2,200 children across 254 schools and nurseries in the North West area and worked with more than 525 reading helpers across our Reading 321 and Story Starter programmes. With key funds kindly donated by the IICF UK, Coram Beanstalk has continued to improve literacy attainment in the North West.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your charities activities?
The services of Coram Beanstalk have been reduced by 40% and we have suffered a loss of £1.2 million. 80% of employees were put on furlough from April until August with 11 staff being made redundant. The charity has had to adapt its services by offering support online rather than face-to-face during lockdown. Since September 2020 schools have started to welcome back volunteer reading helpers, with over 300 returning in October 2020.

Where do you see your charity going in the next 5 years?
The charity aims to continue to raise funds to support its initiatives and offer services remotely as well as face-to-face. Beanstalk has developed their offer during Covid-19 and will now offer more support to schools. Partners will offer training for parents, and school staff will build reading communities ensuring children become readers for life.

How can the IICF and their supporter’s help you get there?
The grants help to fund services (e.g. volunteers, books). As well, the IICF UK and supporters can help to raise awareness (including reaching different demographics).

Contact us

Contact us to learn how you can get involved.

Executive Director IICF UK
71-75 Shelton Street,
London WC2H 9JQ