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SONI initiative gifts 2,000 free books for babies in Armagh and Dungannon areas

SONI has teamed up with BookTrust NI to share 2,000 free books with babies.

SONI’s support ensures BookTrust’s flagship programme, Bookstart Baby, can be gifted free to Sure Start families in the Armagh and Dungannon areas.

To help celebrate the partnership between SONI (System Operator for Northern Ireland) and reading charity BookTrust, children’s entertainer Polly Poppet joined families at South Armagh Sure Start in Crossmaglen for a morning of playful story and rhyme time.

The partnership sees 1,000 babies in the Armagh and Dungannon area receive a BookStart Baby Pack.

These specially designed packs contain two carefully selected, high quality books and a booklet of support and guidance for parents to better understand why reading with their baby is important, even at a young age.

The Bookstart Baby packs will be given to families by Sure Start family workers in Arke Sure Start Armagh, South Armagh Sure Start and Dungannon Sure Start.

Match funding for the project has been secured from Arts & Business NI, which has been used to provide a Book Box for each of the three Sure Starts. These each contain a selection of 100 books for the Sure Starts to refresh their libraries and further encourage families to share stories together.

Liz Canning, NI Book Trust Manager said: “BookTrust NI are thrilled to be working in conjunction with SONI. This partnership will help many families get their babies started on a reading journey, inspiring a lifelong love of reading. The tips and ideas within the packs will help parents develop shared reading time, which we know can have significant positive impacts on a wide range of life outcomes.”

Robin McCormick, SONI General Manager said: “We are very pleased to be working with BookTrust on this project and look forward to working with them on future events in 2017. BookTrust NI’s mission to inspire a love of reading and ensure everyone has access to books in their home is one we fully support and are proud to be a part of. We are pleased to support families in the Armagh area and recognise the importance of working closely with local communities to progress key projects.”

Conor McArdle, Project Co-ordinator Surestart South Armagh said: “We are delighted to host this lively and entertaining event for families in Crossmaglen. We believe our partnership work with BookTrust has a hugely positive impact on children’s language development.

“Songs and rhymes for children have been passed down for generations. They are fun, children love them and they provide a warm, nurturing experience between parent and child whilst also providing enormous educational value. Experts in literacy and children’s development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four, they are usually among the best readers by the time they are eight.”

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