World Book Day (Thursday 2 March) is a chance to encourage children to develop a love of reading, in a bid to build on Nottingham’s status as City of Literature.

Partners in Nottingham are working together to ensure the next generation of children has lots of access to books and reading, which play a vital part in standards of literacy.

A range of initiatives are supporting parents and children with reading skills – as well as ensuring families spend more time together to develop a love of books at an earlier age.

Working together, partners from Nottingham City Council, Small Steps Big Changes and the private sector are building on the city’s status as a UNESCO City of Literature. Nottingham received the status in December 2015, one of only 20 cities around the world recognised by UNESCO.

Ongoing initiatives include the work of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, City Libraries, Literacy Volunteers, the Talking Twos initiative and the support of Boots Opticians in primary schools. The combined work aims to introduce books and reading to children and families at an earlier age, while also focusing on the importance of the parents’ role in their child’s development.

Cllr David Mellen, Portfolio Holder for Early Intervention and Early Years at Nottingham City Council, said: “There a lot of very successful, joined-up work happening in our city to ensure children have the right access to books to bring about a love of reading as early as possible. Being able to read and communicate well are essential ingredients to children doing well in school and preparing for the world of work.

“Having the right partners working with us is essential. We need a collective response – the council, schools, parents, libraries, the NHS, the voluntary sector and the private sector – to ensure we are doing everything we can to give children not just the ability to read, but a love of reading that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

“We have a proud heritage of literacy in our city, highlighted by the awarding of the UNESCO City of Literature status for the sheer quality and quantity of literary excellence. It’s important that we build on this for future generations.”

Some of the initiatives underway include:

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
More than 3,000 children a month now get free books through their door in Nottingham thanks to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

Nottingham City Council has been working alongside the Rotary Club of Nottingham and other partners like Castle Cavendish to co-ordinate fundraising since it chose to back the Imagination Library in the city in 2012. Since then, donations have increased to see more and more children benefiting. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library delivers children a free book for them to keep and read with their family every month; they receive these from birth until their fifth birthday. Recent research in the US shows that children who have been on the scheme for three years or more are 28% more ‘school ready’ than those who have not received the books.

Donations are always welcome. Just £2 a month is enough to ensure a child gets their free book. Or for a one off donation of just £25 you will be paying for one child to receive these wonderful books delivered to their home each month for an entire year. You can find out how to donate here.

To find out more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library go to

Small Steps Big Changes
Small Steps Big Changes is Nottingham’s 10-year “A Better Start” Big Lottery Funded Programme to improve the outcomes of 0-3 years olds. Headed up by CityCare, a third sector provider of community health services, SSBC is a partnership between, the City Council, Health partners, Voluntary sector Organisation, Parents, Families and Communities. The programme focuses on children, parents and communities in Arboretum, Aspley, Bulwell and St Ann’s.
As well as supporting the Imagination Library, SSBC has developed a programme of Family Mentors to support families in a range of activities and developments. Feedback has been very positive with families welcoming the visits from the Family Mentors, all of whom have combined their enthusiasm and knowledge with extensive training ranging from child development and supported feeding, to paediatric first aid and IT skills. These courses have complemented the hands-on parenting experience that Family Mentors have, allowing their time spent with families to be as beneficial as possible.

City Libraries
Nottingham City Libraries are a popular venue for children and families to come and enjoy exploring books together and take part in events that develop a love of reading. Each library has a children’s area full of inspiration for young readers plus toys and activities for families to share and enjoy for free. In 2015/16 City Libraries had over 16,000 children borrow over 222,000 books!

You are never too young to start reading, all children under 1 are registered for their library card by Health Visitors through the Bookstart scheme. Under 5’s can also take part in Bear’s Reading Adventure in libraries and collect stickers and certificates for sharing stories, books and rhymes. All libraries have regular weekly Totstimes where families can enjoy stories, rhymes, music and movement together which helps with children’s language development.

Children aged 4 to 11 are encouraged to read 6 books borrowed from the library over the summer holidays for the Summer Reading Challenge. Rewards can be collected and children receive a certificate and medal when they complete the challenge, last year 1695 children completed the challenge. Taking part helps children keep up their reading during the long summer holiday. This year’s theme is Animal Agents, look out for more information nearer the time.

City Libraries aim to make reading fun for children and parents. Reading for pleasure helps develop literacy skills and a lifelong love of reading which provides so many opportunities in life. In fact, studies have shown that just 10 minutes reading a day can dramatically improve a child’s lifelong language, literacy and numeracy skills.

To find out more about Nottingham City Libraries go to:

Talking Twos
The programme was designed by the Early Years Team at Nottingham City Council operates in 22 childcare settings involving 150 two year olds, as well as around 500 parents, carers and workers. The project worked within settings to improve practitioner confidence in supporting high quality spaces for reading and language development, and providing the appropriate resources to achieve this. It looked at ways to enhance the skills of practitioners to identify speech and language needs, as well as advising how and when to make referrals if required. Resources and toolkits were developed to support the delivery of Talking Twos, as well as activity packs for parents.

Through training, improved collection and analysis of data, and encouraging closer partnership working, it was hoped the programme would have a lasting impact. Talking Twos has shown an increase in children reaching or exceeding their expected level of development in key measured aspects of their speech and language. It has also been warmly received by parents and the programme evaluation with practitioners has shown that the programme has made a significant improvement to their confidence when promoting and recording speech and language, and how they rated the quality of the support offered at their setting.

Boots Opticians: Schools Vision Screening Programme
Developed with the National Literacy Trust, this scheme is being rolled out to primary schools in Nottingham. It’s estimated that around 1 million children in the UK have an undiagnosed eye condition and only 53% of children have ever had a sight test. Since 80% of a child’s learning occurs through sight, a child with an undiagnosed vision problem will struggle to develop key skills, such as reading.

Vision screening can help to indicate if a child might have a vision problem and needs to be referred for a full sight test with an Optometrist. Unfortunately vision screening no longer takes place in every primary school, meaning many children may not be getting the help they need.

In September 2015 Boots Opticians launched a free national vision screening programme. This programme supports schools to quickly and easily check the vision of their children. It’s aimed primarily at Foundation and Key Stage 1 children (aged 4-7) but can be used through primary school. Schools receive a full support package containing everything needed to carry out the vision screen and curriculum based lesson plans which help to bring to life the importance of good eye health.

Once the vision screen is completed, at the touch of a button a letter is produced or an email sent, advising parents and carers if a further referral to an Optometrist is recommended. In all cases parents and carers will be reminded of importance of regular sight tests for their children. The system has been developed to engage every child, incorporating characters and pictures, making it fun for children of different ages.

Boots Opticians is one of the leading opticians in the UK with 636* practices, of which 182* operate on a franchise basis. Around 30% of practices are located in Boots stores with the balance being standalone optical practices.
In August 2013, Boots Opticians became the first multiple optician in the UK to include digital retinal photography as a standard element of its eye test for customers of all ages.

De Rigo, a world leader in the design, production and distribution of high-end eyewear and sunwear, owns a 42% minority interest in Boots Opticians which it obtained in 2009 after Boots Opticians merged with Dollond & Aitchison to create the second largest optical chain in the UK.
* As of 31 August 2016 excluding equity method investments.

Literacy Volunteers
Literacy Volunteers is a local, independent voluntary organisation and registered charity formed on 14 May 1996. Its aim is to help children to enjoy reading and communicating. The charity recruits, trains and supports volunteers to work in primary schools with selected children who are finding reading difficult. Members don’t teach reading – instead they talk, read and play games, draw and write with children. This is done on a one-to-one basis, to give them confidence and to help them enjoy reading for pleasure. There is a growing body of evidence that supports the importance of reading for pleasure in education and personal development.

The school chooses the children who will benefit most from the help volunteers can provide. These are usually children who have some reading and communication abilities, but need help to make progress. This may be because:

  • They lack confidence or concentration
  • Their first language is not English
  • They have limited home support

Literacy Volunteers go to the same local primary school regularly for one session each week.

They help for an agreed length of time, usually half an hour with each child and they help the same children (usually four or five) either for a term or for a whole school year. The aim is to enjoy their time with the children and make sure each child enjoys the session too. Teachers say that 87% of the children the charity works with have an improved love of reading after they have supported them and 93% of the children showed improvements in their reading levels.

Schools wishing to involve Literacy Volunteers become member organisations and pay an annual subscription of £350 per volunteer. They currently have more than 175 volunteers in 119 primary schools across the County supporting up to 800 children a week.

You can get more details at, by emailing, or by calling 0115 876 5474.