CHILDREN, Schools and Families secretary Ed Balls has long endorsed the benefits of reading with children and the positive effects it has on development and learning.

When he announced this year’s National Year of Reading he encouraged more parents to spend time reading to and with their children.

In Kirklees the Bookstart project is encouraging adults to share books with children every day.

Heidi Hadley, of Denby Dale, spends regular reading time with her two-year-old daughter Rebecca.

She said: “We visit all the local libraries in the area and get 15 books at a time. Rebecca loves reading, she chooses her own books and can remember words in her favourites. It’s also helping her with counting and she can memorise the stories.

“She gets a bedtime story every night from myself and my husband and she also loves reciting nursery rhymes and songs.

Rebecca has been attending regular storytime sessions at Skelmanthorpe and other local libraries from birth and has received several bags of books as part of the Bookstart scheme, firstly at seven months, then two years and will receive another selection on her third birthday.

The colourful bags include at least two books, along with story and rhyme sheets and other information to help parents enjoy reading time with their children.

Bookstart coordinator Helen Turner said: “Reading is central to learning and it begins with the importance of sharing books with babies.

“The project aims to encourage parents and carers to share books with their children and to establish the foundations for early literacy and future learning. The negative impact on the development of children who miss these early experiences is huge.”

Bookstart is coordinated by the independent charity Booktrust, based in London.

It is funded by Government departments and book publishers and sellers.

Locally, Bookstart organises the Babies into Books and Book Crawl schemes which encourages parents of newborns to visit libraries regularly, read with their babies and children and attend storytelling sessions which are a feature at many local libraries.

Find out more about Bookstart at:

Activities in the National Year of Reading will include the following themes–

April: Read all about it! Links to newspapers and magazines; library membership campaign.

May: Mind and Body. Reading and learning at work. The knock-on benefits of reading.

June: Reading escapes. Holiday and summer reads.

July: Rhythm and Rhyme. Poems, poetry and lyrics.

August: Read the Game. The influence of sport and how this can help promote reading.

September: You are what you read. Cultural, personal and local identity.

October: Word of Mouth. Storytelling, reading out loud, reading together, reading aloud, live literature.

November: Screen reads. Exploring the diversity of reading and writing; scripts, TV and films.

December: Write the future. Writing, texting, blogging etc.

Mr Balls added: “The National Year of Reading is about much more than children’s achievement at school. It is about the potential of reading to open doors.

“We need children, adults, and families to be reading because they love it and appreciate the opportunities that reading brings – not because people like me say it’s important. And it’s never too late to improve your reading skills.

“We’re at an important point in the history of reading. Changes in technology are redefining the way that we read, write and communicate, and opening up the world of words to new audiences. Anyone can be an author, publisher or critic online, as well as a reader. But at the same time we’re seeing huge interest in traditional forms of reading, with the help of publishing phenomena like Harry Potter, which are rekindling young people’s love of books.”