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Volunteers wanted to help children learn to read before school

PUBLISHED: 17:00 16 November 2017

Childhood reading habits can last a lifetime.

Childhood reading habits can last a lifetime.


Volunteers are being sought to help children in North Somerset to develop their reading skills.

The new Story Starters programme has been rolled out across Somerset to help children aged three to five to develop their reading and literacy skills before starting school.

The scheme is a collaborative project between national children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development).

Children aged three to five will receive support from trained volunteers as well as new books to help them practice their skills.

Beanstalk, which is also backing the Times’ Books For Schools campaign, is now looking for people to become trained volunteers.

Amelia Shaw, Beanstalk South West’s area manager, said: “We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to receive support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive throughout their lives.

“We are asking for more people to come forward as volunteers now so they can be trained as Story Starters.

“It really can be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done, so do join us.”

Story Starters volunteers will visit children twice a week and help three children for 20 minutes.

Sessions will be fun and interactive and highly beneficial to the children.

Research has shown children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months ahead in their literacy and language skills, compared with children who do not.

The programme has been given £1million in funding from the People’s Postcode Lottery until January 2018.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will also provide every Story Starters child with high-quality, professionally-selected books which will be sent to the early years provider and the home of each child, so families can enjoy the stories at home as well.

The next Story Starters training course is being held on November 22 in Taunton.

To find out how to become a volunteer with the programme, visit

The North Somerset Times is running its Books For Schools campaign to donate books to cash-strapped primary schools across

North Somerset.

Research shows children who can read well do better academically and have access to more career opportunities in later life.

Reading is also known to improve wellbeing, develop children’s imaginations and help them to interact with others.

Due to budget cuts, cash-strapped schools have less money to spend on new books and we are keen to help them boost their library stocks by handing over a selection of new reads once a month.

We are appealing for donations of book vouchers and also new and second-hand books so we can give pupils access to new and exciting reads to help them develop a life-long love of reading.

Books and gift vouchers can be dropped into our office in Waterloo Street, Weston-super-Mare.

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