Popular baby book scheme tops 1,000

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More than a thousand babies in Bradford are being given a free book every month as part of a literacy skills development programme.


Safa, aged one, at Laisterdyke Library in Bowling and Barkerend

Better Start Bradford’s book giving project, Better Start Imagine, will provide a free book every month to children born after 1 January 2016 until their fourth birthday.

So far 1,005 babies in the Better Start Bradford areas of Bowling and Barkerend, Bradford Moor, and Little Horton have been signed up.

They will receive books by a range of children’s authors including Beatrix Potter, Nick Sharratt, Rod Campbell, Eric Hill, and Janet and Allan Ahlberg.

The Better Start Imagine project follows the introduction of a similar scheme in the Canterbury area of Bradford, which provides books to children until their fifth birthday. As of September, 811 children in Canterbury were receiving books, and 157 ‘graduates’ had reached their fifth birthday and completed the scheme.

Better Start Bradford is a £49m programme funded by the Big Lottery Fund. It provides over 20 projects for pregnant women and families with children aged under four.

The programme represents one fifth of A Better Start, a £215m, ten-year National Lottery project focused on developing and testing new approaches to promoting good early childhood development in five areas of England.

As well as Bradford, the project is run in Blackpool, Lambeth, Nottingham and Southend on Sea, with the aim of improving future health, social and educational outcomes for children in their first three years.

The Better Start Imagine scheme in Bradford is delivered by BHT Early Education and Training as part of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Local dad Darryl Young regularly takes his children Fawzan, three and Safa (pictured), one, to the storytelling and rhyme time sessions at Laisterdyke Library. He said, ‘Books give us that special time together and help us learn and create new ways to read. Through the library sessions, I have watched my children’s social skills and concentration develop. Safa particularly loves Snap Croc and has even learnt to brush her teeth as well as develop a love for crocodiles!’
Leanne Souster, Better Start Imagine coordinator for BHT Early Education and Training, said, ‘We are really pleased with how the book gifting has been welcomed. We have also introduced rhyme time for babies and storytelling sessions at local libraries and centres to reach as many children under four as possible.’

Michaela Howell, programme director of Better Start Bradford, added, ‘We want local families to really embrace the importance of reading books to their children. It’s great fun and also helps to boost their language and communication skills. We’re really encouraging people in the Better Start Bradford area to sign up to Better Start Imagine project.’

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