News and views TV historian Dan Snow helps Beanstalk to launch new programme aimed at helping nursery children becoming ready to read 2nd October 2017 Local literacy charity Beanstalk has launched Story Starters, a new programme that helps children aged 3-5 in nurseries and pre-schools to develop their language skills in order to become ready to read. The well-known historian and TV presenter Dan Snow, a Beanstalk Ambassador, joined Beanstalk and local marketing and PR company Purple Sprout to celebrate the beginning of this new programme at Stoke-on-Trent’s New Vic theatre. Beanstalk is now looking for volunteers to become Story Starters in early years’ settings in Stoke-on-Trent. Story Starters is a new collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (a project based at the University of Liverpool) that aims to give children in Stoke-on-Trent the support they need to develop their language and reading skills. 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. Purple Sprout has signed up three of their members of staff to be among the first Story Starters in Stoke-on-Trent. Story Starter volunteers will visit children twice a week and support three children for 20 minutes each. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support. The child and volunteer will have access to a box full of books as well as an additional book every month delivered directly to them. Gail Washington, West Midlands Area Manager for Beanstalk, says “I’m delighted to have such an enthusiastic company like Purple Sprout already on board helping us with Beanstalk’s new Story Starters programme in Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire. All the guests at our launch event on Thursday recognise the importance of encouraging children to read from an early age and pledged support to encourage volunteers to come forward so they can be trained and start supporting local children as soon as possible. This will make a huge difference to the future of children in Staffordshire and we would welcome others to get behind Beanstalk to support our future workforce.” Find out more about becoming a Story Starter volunteer: You can find out more about becoming a Story Starter by visiting www.storystarters.org.uk, or calling Beanstalk on 0845 450 0301. About Story Starters Story Starters is a collaborative project that combines excellence in volunteer training and management, high-quality resources and extensive knowledge from two children’s literacy charities with the evaluation methods of a University Research Centre. LuCiD is a research collaboration to understand how children learn to communicate with language. More information is available on www.lucid.ac.uk. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library is a global programme operating in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia with more than 1 million children receiving books per month. In the UK, there are approximately 100 partner organisations serving more than 33,000 children per month. For further information please visit uk.imaginationlibrary.com. Purple Sprout is a Stoke-on-Trent based integrated marketing communications agency with well-rooted contacts an excellent industry experience. To contact the team, please visit www.purple-sprout.com Each Story Starter volunteer provides support for at least two regular hours per week during nursery hours. Each Story Starter volunteer supports three children on a one-to-one basis and uses play, stories and conversation to develop and enrich their understanding and use of language. Story Starters has been made possible by players of The People’s Postcode Lottery. The People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1million in funding in January 2017.