Literacy hit squads to target three-year-olds | London Evening Standard

Volunteers to catch nursery children before they fall behind with reading.

A leading literacy charity will target three-year-olds for the first time to stop them slipping behind before they even start school - writes

Beanstalk, which has been sending reading volunteers into primary schools for 40 years, will now parachute them into nurseries to catch youngsters before they fall behind.

The charity warned that very young children who have never picked up a book before can end up trailing those who were read to as babies by three months by the time they reach school.

Steve Hawe, Beanstalk spokesman, said: “It’s not rocket science. If you start primary school behind with language skills it can have a massive impact.

“All the evidence is that if children have had that support at a younger age they are three months ahead in literacy and language skills by the time they start primary school. They are then 20 per cent more likely to go on and get five good GCSEs.”

The Evening Standard recruited more than 800 Beanstalk volunteers as part of the Get London Reading campaign. They act as reading mentors to primary school children who are struggling, and read one-to-one with them.

Beanstalk is now recruiting 75 London volunteers to read with children in nurseries in Hackney , Islington, Wandsworth and Barnet. The nursery volunteers will get specialist training because the children they work with will be so young.

The children will be encouraged to point at pictures and repeat words rather than being taught to read. They will use books including Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell, Shark In The Park by Nick Sharratt and Funnybones by Janey and Alan Ahlberg.

Each volunteer will have three children who they will work with twice a week for 20 minutes each.

The “Story Starters” programme is funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery and the books will come from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Volunteers are being recruited by Beanstalk.

Mr Hawe said: “It’s natural when you play with a young child and read to them that you point at pictures and use different words that they would not hear in everyday language. Books help young children to read and play and develop language.

“It helps them develop vocabulary so when they get to primary school they are more ready to read. It has a big impact.”

Volunteers can apply at or call 020 7729 4087 for more information.

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