Yorkshire’s elected Mayors join forces with BookTrust and commit to promoting early years reading to give local children the best start in life
Published on: 19 June 2023
BookTrust hosted a roundtable event to explore how improving children's reading habits in their early years can help close the disadvantage gap.
From left to right: Dr Fufy Demissie, Sheffield Hallam University; Nicholas Baumfield, Arts Council England; Diana Gerald, BookTrust; John Coughlan, BookTrust; Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire; Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire; Councillor Mary Harland, Leeds City Council; Andrea Ellison, Leeds City Council; Adam Tulloch, Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians; Julie Hayward, BookTrust
West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin and South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard have joined forces with BookTrust and agreed to promote shared reading support in the early years so local children can enjoy the life-changing benefits of reading.
Over the last year in Yorkshire alone BookTrust has supported 141,475 children aged between 0-13 with books, packs or resources, including providing targeted extra support for 31,454 children from low-income backgrounds in their early years.
In addition, 180 local public libraries across Yorkshire have taken part in BookTrust Storytime, a free library experience that encourages families with children aged 0-5 to share stories together and make visiting their local library a regular part of family life.
The importance of reading in the early years
Using books, stories and rhymes as a basis for playing, talking, singing and exploring in their early years provides the biggest boost to children developmentally, enhancing cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth and development during a period of significant brain growth.
Yet research from BookTrust shows that the number of children from low-income backgrounds who are read to daily starts to decline between the ages of two and four, meaning millions of children are missing out of the life-changing benefits of reading.
The commitment from the elected Mayors came during a roundtable event hosted by BookTrust to explore how improving children's reading habits in their early years can help close the disadvantage gap and deliver on strategic priorities for local communities across the region.
Joining the discussion held at Leeds Central Library were officials from Leeds City Council, Arts Council England, Sheffield Hallam University and the Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL).
BookTrust, which is headquartered in Leeds, works in collaboration with every local authority and thousands of early years and community partners across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to inspire and support families to read and share stories with their children as early as possible so they can enjoy the lifechanging benefits of reading.
As well as national programmes that reach every child with books, resources and support, the charity collaborates with local organisations to test and develop more targeted initiatives that can meet the specific and diverse needs of communities living in deprived areas.
Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin said: "I'm proud to launch this initiative to give the children of West Yorkshire the best start in life through reading, whatever their circumstances.
"The ability to read is not only an essential skill for work – it provides inspiration and enriches our lives for generations. A region of readers and thinkers will help ensure a stronger, brighter West Yorkshire for all."
Meanwhile, South Yorkshire Mayor Oliver Coppard said: "Getting children to read is as close as we come to a silver bullet if we want to improve the lives of kids and families right across our communities.
"That's why I spent a significant part of my career making sure kids had access to books, and why I'm so determined that now I'm Mayor we'll do everything we can to get children reading in South Yorkshire and beyond."
Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust, said that reading can have a "transformative power" on children's future potentially, especially for those who come from low-income or vulnerable family backgrounds.
"Whilst we work with families across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we understand the challenges facing different communities vary significantly," she added. "Meeting local officials and partners who can work with us to deepen our understanding means we can develop timely and relevant reading initiatives and support that genuinely makes a difference for local families.
"We are grateful to Tracy Brabin, Oliver Coppard and Leeds City Council for their support and commitment to improve children's access to positive reading experiences in their early years, so together we can support the next generation of readers."
The Next Chapter - our strategy
There’s never been a more urgent time for us to inspire a new generation of children on their reading journeys. The Next Chapter sets out how we will get every child reading, regularly and by choice, so they can reap the lifechanging benefits of reading.