The charity said that it was 'immensely surprised and disappointed by this decision,' which affects all the schemes in England.
The programmes set to lose their funding from April 2011 are:
- Bookstart - gives out free books to all babies
- Booktime - all Reception class children receive a pack of books when they start school
- Booked Up - Year 7 children are able to choose a book from a range of titles when they start secondary school.
The health visitors' union Unite condemned the decision and said it had received angry feedback from health visitors and community nurses who saw at first hand the benefits these schemes bring.
Professional officer Dave Munday accused the coalition of targeting children yet again, following cuts to schools funding and school building programmes. ‘Now they are even "stealing" books from young children and babies,’ he said. ‘Scrooge is definitely stalking the deep mid-winter Whitehall corridors of power making icy-hearted decisions.’
The book programmes are partly funded by children’s book publishers, including Pearson.
In a statement, Bookstart said, ‘We passionately believe in these programmes and the proven extraordinary transformative power of reading for pleasure. We will be consulting with our partners and exploring funding opportunities to do our utmost to make sure that every child continues to be given the opportunity to develop a lifelong love of books.’
The National Literacy Trust said that it was ‘very disappointed’ that Government funding was to be discontinued.
‘We know the incredible impact that book gifting programmes can have on the lives of the children and families we work with. Low levels of literacy are linked to poverty, reduced opportunities and unemployment, and research has show that regardless of their family’s socio-economic status, children who read for pleasure do better at school and have better life chances than those who don’t. Booktrust’s Bookstart programme in particular has been extremely effective in bringing together health, early years and libraries to focus on literacy, while the Booktime and Booked Up programmes have been extremely effective in supporting children’s motivation to read and literacy attainment at key points in their school life.’