Dolly Parton launches Story Starters, a new volunteer-led program in London to help young children become ready to read.

Dolly Parton launches Story Starters in the UK. It's a new program that provides one-to-one language and communication support to young children. The program is designed to ensure that children have the skills to start primary school ready to read.

Held at Coram Campus in Bloomsbury, Dolly had a special message for the attendees. Also, children’s author and illustrator Sophy Henn is attending and engaging in a storytelling and drawing session for local children.

Story Starters

Story Starters is a new collaborative project between local children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (The ESCR International Centre for Language and Communicative Development). The program aims to give children in Hackney, Wandsworth, Barnet and Islington support in developing their language and reading skills.

Research shows that children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months ahead in their literacy and language skills, compared with children who don’t. The program has been made possible by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1 million in funding in January 2017.

Volunteers Needed

Beanstalk is now looking for volunteers to become Story Starters in pre-schools and nurseries in Hackney, Wandsworth, Barnet and Islington. Story Starter volunteers will visit children twice a week and support three children for 20 minutes each. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will provide every Story Starter child with high-quality, professionally-selected, age-appropriate books. Books are sent directly to both the early years setting and the home of each Story Starter child. As a result, kids can enjoy the magic of stories at home and with their Story Starter. Ginny Lunn, CEO of Beanstalk, says,

"We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to receive support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive throughout their lives."

Visit or call Beanstalk on 0845 450 0301 to become a Story Starter.

Dollywood Foundation project wins £1 Million funding in the UK!

The Dream Fund selected the Story Starters project- a collaboration between Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Beanstalk and LuCid at the University of Liverpool to receive £1 Million ($1.2 Million).

The funding announcement was made on 24th January at People’s Postcode Lottery’s annual Charity Gala, held in Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House. The event was a celebration of the £66.3 million awarded to charities in 2016 thanks to players of the charity lottery.

Ambassador Jeff Brazier and Managing Director/Head of Marketing for People’s Postcode Lottery UK, Lorna Menzies presented the check to the Regional Director of the Imagination Library UK- Kirsteen Watson, CEO of Beanstalk- Ginny Lunn, and Deputy Director of LuCiD- Professor Julian Pine.

The funding will result in the recruitment and training of 600 Story Starter volunteers to give one-to-one support, with high-quality books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, to 1,800 children between 3 and 5 years old, creating an innovative approach to learning. LuCid will carry out expert education evaluation. If successful, the programme will be rolled out to 15,000 children over the next 5 years. Dolly Parton said,

"It seems only right that dreamers like us have been acknowledged by the Dream Fund! I am so grateful for their confidence in our partnership and I promise we will do everything in our power to make sure our children's
dreams do come true."

The Dollywood Foundation UK was one of several organizations who were recognized by the Dream Fund whose offerings totaled £2.5 million in 2017. Charitable organizations in Great Britain (Scotland, England or Wales) were eligible to apply. According to the Dream Fund website applicants are encouraged to be “innovative, creative and original, and present projects that are a genuine ‘dream’.” Previous winners have included Building Our Dreams, Edible Playgrounds and Energy Gardens.

With thanks to North Lincolnshire Council & East Coast Pictures for some of the footage in this film.

Each month, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library sends over one million free books to registered children living in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the UK alone, there are over 90 local champions who help make this dream possible. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Imagination Library’s launch in the United Kingdom.

Special thanks to Beanstalk and LuCiD for partnering with the Imagination Library in this effort. Also, thank you to People's Postcode Lottery.

Beanstalk is a national charity that provides one-to-one literacy support to children who struggle with their reading ability and confidence.

The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development (LuCiD) is a five-year research collaboration working with partners from across the world to transform our understanding of how children learn to communicate with language.



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