By Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk CEO and a trained reading helper

I’m delighted to share the exciting news that Beanstalk has been awarded £1 million in funding - courtesy of the People’s Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund 2017 - for our Story Starters project to help transform the language and communication skills of nursery school children across England.

In short, Story Starters is a collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCiD to help 1,800 nursery school children across England. Each partner organisation is bringing a unique, specialist skill set to the project, which will ensure that our work is fully effective:

  • Beanstalk will help recruit, professionally train, and support volunteers to provide one-to-one support to nursery children struggling with language and communication.
  • Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will help ensure that we have high-quality, engaging, and age-appropriate reading resources for Story Starter children.
  • LuCiD, The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development, will help us understand and monitor how early years children learn to communicate with language.

Sadly, far too many children arrive at primary school struggling to read and without the key skills to engage with the primary curriculum, putting them at risk of falling behind with their education. As a trained reading helper myself - who supports children in KS2 - I see every week the vital importance of ensuring that children have key literacy and language skills when they start primary school.

Research shows that children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school – on average – around three months ahead in their literacy and language skills compared with children who attend low-quality settings. And these benefits carry on throughout life, for instance they’re 20% more likely to get 5 A*-C GCSE’s and earn more as adults.

That’s why we’re all so excited about Story Starters, as we know that it will allow us to come together to bring real, measureable and long-term positive change to the lives of thousands of children across the country who are in crucial need of Story Starter support.

I’d just like to thank all the people who have helped bring Story Starters to life: all the staff members at Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and LuCiD who have worked so hard over the last few months to bring this project to fruition. We’re also so grateful to the People’s Postcode Lottery and all their players across the country, who have helped make our dreams come true.