Helping spread the word

FAMILIES in key Rotherham suburbs are failing to take advantage of a free book scheme for under fives - and work has begun to make sure that no youngster misses out.

The Imagination Library scheme was launched by country singing legend Dolly Parton nearly three years ago and since then more than 100,000 books have been given to children in the town.

But research by the council has shown that fewer youngsters in suburbs such as Eastwood, Dinnington and Swinton are receiving books - with only 70 per cent signed up in Eastwood.

Jammil Shah and his mother Margul from Eastwood were invited to their local library to join the service, which will see the two-year-old receive a free book every month until he is five.

The scheme is designed to give children a love of books and reading before they go to school.

Mrs Shah heard about the Imagination Library from staff at the Coleridge Children's Centre, where she works as a volunteer.

Alison Lilburn, project manager for the library, said: "It is really important for us to get the message out to parents across Rotherham and particularly in areas such as Eastwood, that their children are entitled to receive these free books.

"The scheme was launched two years ago by Rotherham Council and is designed to give young children access to books from an early age, as part of a range of provision to help develop their communication, language and literacy skills and improve their life chances."

All books are supplied in English, but Alison said: "Even if the parent's first language is not English, the books are very pictorial and provide a great opportunity for interaction between child and adult."

The books are personally addressed to the child and delivered through their letterbox.

Registration is free and families can register on-line by visiting: www.rotherham.gov.uk/imaginationlibrary or by calling 01709 822623.

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