Children’s literacy support charity Beanstalk has launched Story Starters, a new programme designed to help nursery children develop the language and communication skills required to start school.
Story Starters will see 600 volunteers provide help with reading to 1,800 three- to five-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds in nurseries across England.
The project, which has been funded until March 2019 by the People’s Postcode Lottery, is currently operating in Liverpool and Cheshire, and over the next month will launch in areas across the North East, North West, South West, East and West Midlands, London, Kent, Suffolk and Yorkshire.
Children will receive two 20-minute one-to-one sessions a week with a Story Starters volunteer, as well as a specially selected book delivered to their home each month.
As part of the sessions, which have been devised by Beanstalk in collaboration with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and LuCid at the University of Liverpool, children and volunteers will have access to a box of books and play materials.
Volunteers receive full specialist training on working with young children and delivering sessions which are designed to be fun and interactive to promote conversation and play with the aim of boosting language development and literacy skills.
Sessions will focus on encouraging children to point at pictures and repeat words. Books used will include Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Shark In The Park by Nick Sharratt and Funnybones by Janet and Allan Ahlberg.
The charity has warned that children who do not benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months behind their peers in literacy and language skills.
Ginny Lunn, chief executive of Beanstalk, said, ‘Beanstalk is excited to be working with local nurseries on our new programme Story Starters. We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to get support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive throughout their education. We need volunteers to come forward now so they can be trained to start supporting children as soon as possible.’
In the last school year Beanstalk worked with over 11,000 children across England in over 1,400 schools with the help of over 3,000 volunteers. By 2020-21 the charity aims to help 30,000 children every year, by recruiting an extra 5,000 volunteers.
To become a Story Starter nursery, visit https://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/become-a-story-starter-nursery
To become a Story Starter volunteer, visit https://www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk/become-a-story-starter