Minister pledges to see project in action

John Healey MP speaking with parents and children about the Imagination Library reading scheme.

John Healey MP speaking with parents and children about the Imagination Library reading scheme.

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A GOVERNMENT minister has pledged to visit Rotherham to see a children’s reading scheme in action following calls to roll the project out nationally.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said he planned to take a closer look at the town’s Imagination Library scheme during a Parliamentary debate on early reading last week.

The debate had been secured by Wentworth and Dearne MP John Healey, who is calling for the scheme to be rolled out nationally.

Through the project children are sent books to read through the post each month upto the age of five.

A total of 13, 600 children - nine out of ten in the borough - have now signed up since it was launched in 2008.

Mr Healey said: “Our Rotherham scheme shows the power of a parcel arriving with a child’s name on it and their own book inside.

“It sparks a kid’s imagination from the very earliest age, giving every young child a better start in life and a better chance to read. Teachers, parents and – most importantly of all – children love the scheme.

“It fires a desire in the child to read, but it often fires a determination to do so in the family as well.”

Mr Healey quoted Rotherham parents and teachers and said there were already similar schemes in Luton, Wigan and Scotland.

He explained the cost of the books and postage was £24 for each child each year – compared to the £4,139 average annual spend on each primary school child.

Mr Healey asked the Schools Minister to extend the scheme nationally.

Mr Gibb said: “Cost is of course a factor in the current climate. A quick calculation based on the figures he presented shows that his £300,000 would extrapolate to something like £45 million a year, which is not an insignificant sum in the current climate.

“However, I would like to take up his invitation to return to Rotherham. I stood for election there in 1994 with mixed success, and it would be a pleasure to return and see the scheme in action.

“Any scheme that can promote a lifelong love of books and reading is hugely valuable, and we will say more about this issue and how to develop that lifelong love of reading in the coming year.”