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Story Starters
9 August 2018
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Volunteers in County Durham begin journey to inspire a love of books among children as part of Story Starters project

Trained reading helpers will begin supporting children in County Durham nurseries and pre-schools as part of the new Story Starters reading programme. The project involves volunteers from the local community visiting local early years settings twice a week to help children aged three to five become ready to read ahead of starting school.

Story Starters is a collaborative project between children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (University of Liverpool) which aims to give children aged three to five the support they need to develop their language and reading skills. This exciting project has been made possible by players of People's Postcode Lottery. People's Postcode Lottery Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1 million in funding in January 2017.

Story Starters - boy reading a book

Research has shown that 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 don’t.

Nadiyah Charmedia is one of the very first Story Starter reading helpers in the North East of England to be trained and will support children at Langley Park Primary School and Nursery supported by Beanstalk - a national children’s literacy charity which recruits, trains and supports volunteers to work one-to-one with children aged 3 to 13 in a variety of ways, turning them into confident, passionate and able readers.

Nadiyah will work with three pre-schoolers one-to-one, two times a week for 20 minutes at a time. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support.

"I cannot wait to get started! The nursery is lovely and the children seemed really excited to meet me. Am looking forward to opening my first book with them."

Gail Ross at Langley Park Nursery, said:

“Langley Park has been involved with Beanstalk for many years delivering extra one-to-one reading support to pupils at our school. Following the success of this I am really excited to see the improvement it will make to the nursery children which our new Story Starter volunteers will be supporting."

Janet Skeen is the Area Manager for Beanstalk in the North East of England:

“Beanstalk is thrilled to have our first Story Starter volunteers making such a positive impact in County Durham. 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. We are now seeking our next intake of volunteers so please get in touch with Beanstalk if you would like to volunteer and change the lives of children in the community.”

Volunteer reading

Volunteers are also needed for Beanstalk’s 321 reading programme which already successfully runs in a number of schools across the North East of England and has been making a positive impact on children’s reading confidence and ability. This involves volunteers supporting three primary school aged children (aged 5-11), two times a week for 30 minutes in a local primary school for one academic year. One-to-one sessions enable the reading helper to tailor each session to the child’s specific needs and to pass on the magic of stories and books.

To find out more about becoming a Story Starter volunteer or a reading helper in a local primary school, please: