Bradford City players and staff are kicking off the new football season by backing a book-gifting project which operates only streets away from the Coral Windows Stadium.
Literacy charity Canterbury Imagine started on the Canterbury estate in the city in 2012 before expanding last year to offer free books to under-fives in the area around Midland Road in Manningham.
And the charity is this month sending out an amazing 862 free books to under-fives in the city – 607 in the Canterbury estate area, 130 to children in the care of the local authority and 125 to children in the Midland Road area of Manningham, based around Midland Road children’s centre in the shadow of the stadium.
It only costs £25 to pay for 12 books as the charity affiliates to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, the scheme set up by the country singer. It is the only imagination library in West Yorkshire.
A pilot scheme is offering staff and players at Bradford City the chance to register their own young children to receive a book every month – but they are being asked to pay £50 a year (or £40 a year with gift aid), which will not only buy books for their own babies but will also match-fund free books for a youngster living in the Midland Road area.
Organiser Jan Winter said this new sponsorship scheme could be expanded to businesses in the district offering them the satisfaction of knowing that as well as providing a great benefit for their staff, they would also be funding books for under-fives in some of the poorest areas of the city.
Jan said: “Building a love of reading early in the lives of children will pay dividends as they progress through school and into adult life.
“We are delighted that in a relatively short time, the charity has expanded so successfully, and this support from Bradford City is absolutely brilliant. The players and staff recognise the importance of early literacy skills and how time spent sharing a book with a young child is an important bonding experience.”
Bradford City's Chief Operating Officer James Mason added: "Many of the players and staff at the Club have young children and therefore fully appreciate the power that reading books at an early age can give to children. Not just in terms of creativity and enjoyment but also for their own confidence and as an activity to enjoy with their parents, other family members and friends."
The charity aims to help to improve literacy, emotional development, educational attainment and life chances for children, some of them in the most deprived areas of the district, with youngsters receiving a free book through the post, addressed to the child, from birth until their fifth birthday. The children build up their own ‘library’ of up to 60 quality books, suitable for their age.
Jan added: “A gift-aided donation of only £20 through the JustGiving link on our website will buy books for a child for a year. Or donors could give £2 a month knowing that this small amount will sponsor free books for a child in their district.”
The scheme also helps with sessions which encourage parents to enjoy reading with their babies, and research conducted by the Dolly Parton Imagination Library has shown that parents are more likely to read a bedtime story to their children when they are part of the scheme.