Belfast Harbour was revealed today as the new Northern Ireland corporate partner for BookTrust – the UK’s largest reading charity. Through the partnership the Harbour will sponsor the charity’s flagship programme ‘Babies Need Books’, bringing the project to families supported by Sure Start in Belfast.
‘Babies Need Books’ aims to reach 500 families across North and East Belfast with each family receiving a specially designed pack from the Harbour. The pack will contain two carefully selected books and a guidance booklet for parents explaining the benefits of reading to babies. Advice about library membership and how books and stories can build bonds between parents and children will also be provided.
The packs will be distributed by Sure Start family workers in both areas who work closely with BookTrust.
Jenni Barkley of Belfast Harbour said:
“Belfast Harbour is thrilled to confirm today’s partnership announcement with the UK’s largest reading charity. This is a great opportunity to work with BookTrust and support 500 families across the city with a project that will help them forge a better future for their children. Reading from an early age is imperative for children’s educational development and we would encourage parents to take this opportunity to have some fun whilst learning with their babies.”
National Development Manager in Northern Ireland, Liz Canning from BookTrust added:
“Since the Government’s withdrawal of our funding earlier this year we were anxious children in Northern Ireland were going to miss out on a vital early year’s intervention programme. However, with Belfast Harbour’s support we will be able to carry on this work. These packs will change lives: reading for pleasure creates bonding opportunities for families; develops confidence in children and gives children a head-start at school. It is the vital cog in the machinery of early language and literacy development.”
Through its book-gifting programmes BookTrust supports children and families from babyhood right through to secondary school to develop a love of reading, distributing more than five million books annually across the UK.
The educational value of reading is well documented with research demonstrating that by the time they reach school, pre-school children who have been read to for just 10 minutes every day are up to 12-months ahead of those who were not.