24th January 2017

An innovative programme to boost the language and communication development of nursery school children has been awarded £1 million in funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

‘Story Starters’ is a collaborative project between Beanstalk, Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and LuCid at the University of Liverpool that will help ensure that 1,800 children from disadvantaged backgrounds will have the one-to-one support they need to succeed in their education.

The £1million in funding will allow Story Starters to address the needs of children who are not getting the help and support they need at home to develop their language and reading skills.

The funding will result in the recruitment and professional training of 600 Story Starter volunteers to give one-to-one support, with high-quality literacy resources, to 1,800 disadvantaged children between 3 and 5 years old, creating an innovative approach to learning.

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 to children who attended low-quality settings. These benefits carry on throughout life, as they are 20% more likely to get 5 A*-C GCSEs, and earn more as adults.

Ginny Lunn, Beanstalk CEO said:

  • “Improving early year’s education is essential in ensuring that children from disadvantaged and low-income backgrounds have the skills and confidence they need to reach their true potential.”
  • “Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCiD at the University of Liverpool are delighted to have been chosen as one of the winners of the People’s Postcode Lottery’s Dream Fund 2017.
  • “The funding will ensure that 1,800 children will start primary school ready to read through our ‘Story Starters’ programme, which will give them the one-to-one support they need to improve vital language and communication skills.”

Story Starter volunteers will be professionally trained by Beanstalk and provided with high-quality literacy resources from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, with expert education evaluation carried out by LuCid.

The funding announcement was made on 24th January at People’s Postcode Lottery’s annual Charity Gala, held in Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House. The event was a celebration of the £66.3million awarded to charities in 2016 thanks to players of the charity lottery.

For further information, photos or to interview a Beanstalk spokesperson, please contact Tom Rippon on 020 7729 4087 or [email protected]


Notes to editor:

  1. Beanstalk is a national literacy charity that recruits, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with children who have fallen behind with their reading. Beanstalk's vision is that all children and young people have the essential skills they need to grow up and lead successful lives. To find out how to volunteer, visit beanstalkcharity.org.uk or call 020 7729 4087.
  2. LuCiD is a research collaboration to understand how children learn to communicate with language.
  3. 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. 
  4. Each Beanstalk reading helper works with three children and sees each child for two 30 minute sessions a week, during term-time, for a whole year. Together, they read, play and talk. With Beanstalk's support the child's approach to learning and enjoying reading is transformed.
  5. Research on early years education is taken from: ‘Untapped Potential: How England’s nursery lottery is failing too many children’ published by Save the Children UK.
  6. In the last academic year Beanstalk supported over 11,000 children.
  7. Beanstalk works in areas of deprivation across England in the North, Midlands, Somerset, Greater London and Kent & Medway.
  8. Beanstalk was founded in 1973 as Volunteer Reading Help by Susan Belgrave MBE, Beanstalk’s President.
  9. Sources for statistics are available on request.

 For press enquiries contact Tom Rippon at [email protected] on 020 7729 4087