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Almond brings Story Starters to Scotland

Country music legend Dolly Parton has gifted more than a thousand books to the children of Almond tenants, since we signed up to the Imagination Library scheme.

Now she's helping to show adults how to bring storytime to life, so their kids can get a head start in learning.

Pre-school children enrolled in our Imagination Library programme receive a free book in the post, to keep, every month until their fifth birthday.

Almond has already signed up more than 130 children, and is keen to give the gift of reading to even more, with a target of 300.

Which is why we worked with the Imagination Library to pilot Story Starters training for staff and volunteers - to show them how to use picture books to teach greater communication and language skills in young children.

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Pic shows (left to right with Dolly): Community Engagement Officer Barbara Boertien, Angela Fuggle from Beanstalk, and Kirsteen Watson of The Dollywood Foundation UK

Story Starters is a partnership between Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and children's literacy charity Beanstalk, and is currently being delivered across England, evaluated by LuCiD; a project based at the University of Liverpool which provides ground-breaking research on communication and language.

We launched Story Starters in Scotland on November 22, with an adapted pilot of the project, to celebrate one year of being an Imagination Library affiliate during Book Week Scotland.

We recruited 12 volunteers for training in how to use the magic of books to engage children in the playfulness of reading, so they go on to enjoy stories and reading for life.

Community Engagement Officer Barbara Boertien said: "Dolly Parton's Imagination Library has proved popular, and we are encouraging all of our families with children under 5 to sign up to the programme. Story Starters is about going a step further and helping our tenants with young children to support and encourage each other to share the magic of stories."

Kirsteen Watson, Regional Director of The Dollywood Foundation UK, said: "We know that the monthly delivery of our books creates excitement among the children who receive them, and hope that by adding this extra layer of training, parents and carers will enjoy the books and time they spend with their children reading even more."

Ginny Lunn, CEO at Beanstalk, said: "This is our first venture into Scotland and we're thrilled to enable even more children to be supported with their reading skills. Literacy issues exist across the UK and we hope this is the first of many Story Starter sessions in Scotland."

According to the Ready to Read report, published by Save The Children, one in five children growing up in poverty in Scotland leaves primary school unable to read well. And if youngsters do not learn to speak and listen from an early age, developing their understanding of words and stories, they struggle with reading."

Story Starters group

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For more information about Story Starters training, or to sign up to The Imagination Library, contact Community Engagement Officer Barbara Boertien on 01506 439 291 or email