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6 April 2017
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New early years' literacy programme set to launch in Liverpool backed by Dolly Parton

An innovative new early years’ literacy programme to help give Liverpool’s children the best start in life, backed by Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, was launched on 3rd April.

The Story Starters launch was marked by a special event, featuring Liverpudlian children’s author Alan Gibbons holding a special book reading for children from a local nursery set to be supported by Story Starters.

The event, held at The Storybarn in Calderstones Park was attended by a range of local education experts and politicians, including Jane Davis (CEO of The Reader and head of Liverpool’s City of Readers campaign), The Mayor of Liverpool, and Councillor Lana Orr (Mayoral Lead for Primary Schooling).

Story Starters is a new collaborative project between children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (University of Liverpool), which aims to give children in Liverpool the support they need to develop their language and reading skills.

Story Starters has been made possible by players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1 million in funding in January 2017.

Working in partnerships with local nurseries, trained Story Starter volunteers will provide caring one-to-one support to develop and enrich the vital language and reading skills young children need to start school ready to learn.

Along with the trained support provided by Story Starter volunteers, each child will receive high-quality resources from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library so that they can enjoy the magic of stories at home.

On the launch of Story Starters:

Dolly Parton said:

“Beanstalk and my Imagination Library have joined together to launch a special program which will help children become more ready to read and to learn. We call it Story Starters. We send books into the children’s homes and our caring volunteers work one to one with the children to give them the extra support they need with their reading.”

Ginny Lunn (Beanstalk CEO) said:

“Providing effective early years support in language and reading development is vital to ensuring that children across Liverpool start school ready to learn. Story Starters will help ensure that children across Merseyside have the skills and confidence to reach for the stars.”

Child illiteracy is a persistent problem both nationally and locally:

  • Last year 34% of children in England left primary school unable to read to the required level.
  • Last year 40% of children in Liverpool left primary school unable to read to the required level.

Research shows that to overcome this problem, we must provide more support to children in their early years, as 58% of children start primary school already behind in their reading. Children who start behind are at risk of staying behind for life.

Story Starters is launching in Liverpool and the North West, before rolling out nationally in the 2017-18 school year. Story Starters will transform the learning and lives of 1,800 children by 2019.