Bradford book gift charity registers its 500th baby

Stacey Butterfield with her son Subhan Mohammed.
Stacey Butterfield with her son Subhan Mohammed.
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A book-gifting charity which aims to improve literacy in a Yorkshire city by funding free books for under-fives has registered its 500th baby on the estate where it started.

Canterbury Imagine began on Bradford’s Canterbury estate in 2012 and its 500th registration was six-month-old Subhan Mohammed.

The charity aims to help to improve literacy, educational attainment and life chances for children, some of them in the most deprived areas of the Bradford district.

Youngsters receive a free book through the post, addressed to the child, once a monht from birth until their fifth birthday, building build up their own library of up to 60 books, suitable for their age

Subhan’s mum, Stacey Butterfield, 27, described the scheme’s success as amazing. She lives in Canterbury with husband Mohammed Shafiq and Subhan’s brothers Khurram, 11, and Sufyan, three, and sister Sofia, ten. “My daughter loves reading and she will read books with Subhan....When you have a little one it’s a nice time I can spend with him, reading a book. There are so many benefits from reading to your child.”

Bev George, executive head at Canterbury nursery and children’s centre, which registers babies on to the scheme, said: “One of the key things is that the initiative provides quality books that are age-appropriate so parents aren’t having to trawl through and decide what’s right and appropriate. Giving them the resources they need to sit down on a regular basis to share books helps children to have that love of books and reading, and those early communication skills, that we need for children to be able to access the learning once they come into school.”

She also said time spent looking at a book with very young children helped to build their emotional development, which played its part in being ready to learn.

“To get 60 books – what a library to have!” she added.

Canterbury Imagine also funds schemes for under-fives in the care of the local authority, sending about 140 books each month to foster homes, and a project in the Midland Road area of Manningham, which already has 90 babies registered. It only costs £25 or 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 and is hoping to attract business and individual sponsorship to keep its work going.

Organiser Jan Winter 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, with parents saying how much their babies enjoy the books.”

She added: “A gift-aided donation of only £20 through the JustGiving link on our website, www.canterburyimagine.co.uk, will buy books for a child for a year.”