Families with young children across Sunderland are being reminded of the free books and literacy support available locally through their libraries and the national ‘Bookstart’ programme.

The parents/carers of every pre-school child, are eligible to receive the free packs with tips and guidance on how to help develop and improve their child’s reading and literacy skills.

This includes tips on reading books together, making best use of the local and school libraries, and information on the regular programme of events and activities to help encourage more children to develop an early interest in books, reading and creativity.

Bookstart packs are given free to children at eight months old, again when they go from nursery to reception at three to four years old, and finally when they enter their first school year aged five to six years old.

Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “Bookstart was introduced in 1992 as the world’s first national book-gifting programme, with the aim of encouraging a love of books, stories and rhymes in children from as young an age as possible to help develop their ability as a lifelong learner..

“Libraries Services in Sunderland promote it as much as possible to families, to help complement the early years education services we already provide.

“Annually through a network that includes our schools library service, childcare professionals, health visitors, health centres and community groups we distribute on average 3000 of the literacy packs including free books to families across the city.”

Head teacher at Hudson Road Primary School Cathy Westgate (right) with Janet Simm of the Schools Library Service reading with Rawdah Begum, Mahfuz Ahmed and Fallan Anderson

Cllr Kelly added: “All the packs also include information on how to join the library, and as a result more than a thousand children a year in Sunderland join the service which gives them access to a vast range of books and on-line digital services to help them improve their reading at school and enjoyment of books at home.”

By joining Sunderland Libraries children can choose from a vast range of books by well-known authors either by calling in at their local or school library, or using a library ticket to log on to ebooks or Ziptales, stories, puzzles, poems and games for children via www.sunderland.gov.uk/libraries and clicking on digital subscription services

Libraries continue to work closely with local schools, especially through the Schools Library Service.

Headteacher at Hudson Road Primary, Mrs Cathy Westgate said: “It’s so important that we all encourage our children to develop an interest in reading at a very early age, as it helps so much with their education and personal development.

“Providing access to books and libraries is a vital part of that process, it only takes one well-chosen book to capture their imagination so the more choice available to them and their families the better.”

Year Five pupil Rawdah, 9, said: “I really like reading books without illustrations, because it makes you use your own imagination to picture the characters.”

Mahfuz, 9, added: “It’s really important to learn more from reading harder and harder books, it helps you learn new words and develop your vocabulary.”

Fallon, 9 said: ”l love reading books because your imagination takes you all over the world, and the words help you develop in your own mind what the people in the adventures look like.”

Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Children, Learning and Skills, Cllr Louise Farthing said: “Linking families to book and our libraries through Bookstart is one of the ways the Council aims to give Sunderland children a best start in education and learning.”

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