Free book scheme welcomed by pupils, parents and teaching staff in Scunthorpe area
A FREE book scheme being rolled out in North Lincolnshire has been heralded for improving literacy figures in other areas.
The Imagination Library, created by legendary country music singer Dolly Parton, provides every child who is registered for the scheme with a book each month from birth to their fifth birthday.
A pilot scheme has now been officially launched in the Isle of Axholme with a view to rolling it out across the region in the future.
Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council rolled out the scheme fully in 2008 and by last March had registered 20,662 children.
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And comparing rates of progress in one class of four to five-year-olds showed those who had been given the books had made greater progress in reading and writing than those not on the scheme.
A total of 58.8 per cent (30 children) of pupils on the scheme made more than five levels of progress in reading, compared to 51.4 per cent (18 children) of those not on the scheme.
Four levels of progress is the expected benchmark for pupils in this year of school and the most a pupil can feasibly achieve is six.
Alison Lilburn, project manager at Rotherham's Imagination Library, said: "We certainly believe that this has impacted on the improved Early Years Foundation Stage Profile results in Rotherham over the last four years and that the Imagination Library has become an important and valued partner in raising literacy standards."
In Luton, 4,000 participants signed up and a third of them went on to join their local library.
The effects of the scheme have also been felt in America, where Dolly Parton first started the scheme in 1996.
In a 2007 study in Tennessee, where the scheme was first launched, 48 per cent of reception teachers and 64 per cent of pre-reception teachers said Imagination Library participants performed "better than expected" or "much better than expected", compared with pupils from previous classes.
This compares to just 10 per cent of teachers who believed non-registered pupils had performed better.
In February 2010, the University of Alaska carried out a study about the impact of the Imagination Library scheme.
The findings showed before receiving the books, 51.7 per cent of the respondents reported reading to their child once a day or more.
After receiving the books, this percentage increased to 81.3 per cent.
Speaking at the launch in Crowle, Brigg MP Andrew Percy said: "The sign-up is already in triple figures and I am really very happy."
WHAT THE PEOPLE THINK
SANDRA SIMMONS, principal officer for early years and professional standards at North Lincolnshire Council: "This scheme is going to make a huge difference. It is giving young people strong communication and language skills so they have the best start possible at school. It will help children and parents see language as a fun and lifelong skill and is a key to unlock so much more."
JOE SELLARS, principal at the Axholme Academy in Crowle: "I have heard about this in other areas and how it has been massively effective. The idea of books coming through the letterbox is so exciting for young children. We work really hard on raising literacy skills at secondary school and this will make a huge difference to the children coming to us."
GEORGINA HEALER, 5, a reception pupil at St Norbert's Catholic Voluntary Academy in Crowle who read a passage from The Tale of Peter Rabbit at the launch: "I like Peter Rabbit, which is the first book I have got. I liked it when his buttons got caught when he was being chased by Mr McGregor. I like reading because it means I can learn lots of new things."
SAM KINGETT, 27, from Ealand, who has two children eligible for the scheme and is due to give birth to a third in the coming weeks: "I think this scheme will be great. My husband and I read to the children every night, so to get a book in the post every month will be so exciting. We have never read Peter Rabbit to the children, so I look forward to doing that."