Free books and literacy support are being made available to Sunderland families with young children.

As part of the national Bookstart scheme, the parents or carers of every pre-school child are entitled to free packs. The packs include tips on how to improve children’s reading abilities and literacy skills.

The packs contain guidance on reading together, on how to take advantage of local and school libraries, and information on local events and activities that encourage kids to develop a love of reading and creativity.

Children receive their first Bookstart packs when they are just eight-months-old. They get another pack when they move from nursery to reception at the age of three or four and another one when they start their first school year aged five or six.

Cllr John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for communities and culture, 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.”

“Library services in Sunderland promote it as much as possible to families to help complement the early years education service 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 3,000 of the literacy packs, including free books, to families across the city.”

“All the packs contain information on how to join the library. As a result, more than 1,000 children in Sunderland a year join the service, which gives them access to a vast range of books and online 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 huge selection of books by well-known authors, which they can access at either their local or their school library.

They can also use a library ticket to log on and enjoy ebooks, Ziptales, stories, puzzles and games, by going to www.sunderland.gov.uk/libraries and clicking on ‘Digital Subscription Services’.

Bookstart aims to strengthen children’s enjoyment of reading

Sunderland’s libraries cooperate closely with the city’s schools, especially through the Schools Library Service.

Mrs Cathy Westgate, the headteacher at Hudson Road Primary, 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.”

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

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

Cllr Louise Farthing, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for children, learning and skills, said, “Linking families to books and our libraries through Bookstart is one of the ways the council aims to give Sunderland children the best start in education and learning.”

(The featured image shows the headteacher of Hudson Road Primary Mrs Cathy Westgate with schools service librarian Janet Simm and Year Five pupils Rawdah, Mahfuz and Fallon.)   

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