Children’s entertainer Polly Poppet joined the festivities at Armagh City Library to celebrate a partnership between reading charity BookTrust and SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) that will see 1,000 local babies receive a pack of new books and guidance.
The partnership will ensure that BookTrust’s flagship programme, Bookstart Baby, can be gifted free to Sure Start families in the Armagh and Dungannon areas. They will receive a specially designed pack with two carefully selected, high quality books and a booklet of support and guidance for parents.
This guidance helps parents to understand why reading with their baby is important, even at a young age, and provides advice on how to join their local library and how to use stories and books to bond with their child.
The Bookstart Baby packs will be given to families by Sure Start family workers in Arke Sure Start Armagh, South Armagh Sure Start and Dungannon Sure Start.
Liz Canning, NI Book Trust Manager said: “We at BookTrust NI are delighted to be working in conjunction with SONI. This partnership will benefit families in the Armagh area, helping get their babies started on their reading journey and towards lifelong love of books and stories. The packs also provide parents with some hints and tips about how to share reading with your children, because we know that reading together as a family brings enormous benefits.”
Mia Murray, Arke Sure Start added: “The Bookstart Baby packs from SONI will complement the existing distribution of Bookstart+ (issued to ArKe Sure Start members with children aged 18mths). Promoting Arke Sure Start’s commitment to encouraging book sharing from a very early age to create a lifelong relationship with books and language.”
Natasha Sayee, Head of Public Affairs at SONI said: “We are delighted to be working with BookTrust and are pleased that they are our official charity partner for 2016-17. BookTrust NI’s vision is to encourage children and adults alike to take up reading and develop important literacy skills, which mirrors our own strategy to ensure our own communications are clear and easily accessible.
“We are pleased to be supporting families in the Armagh area, we recognise the importance of working hand-in-hand with communities as we progress key projects such as the North South Interconnector and look forward to planned activities with BooksTrust NI in the Cathedral City.”
The Bookstart Baby programme is regularly and fully evaluated and has been proven to encourage parents to read more with their new baby and improve skills and confidence in reading to children.
*Pictured in photo at Armagh Library (L-R): Josh Oates (aged2) Natasha Sayee (SONI) Polly Pocket with Myia Wilson (6 months) & Liz Canning (Book Trust).