Dolly Parton Calls For Volunteers in Wandsworth

Get involved with Story Starters to help nursery children become ready to read

Author Sophy Henn delights young children

International superstar and philanthropist Dolly Parton has released a new film to encourage more people to get involved with Story Starters - a new volunteer-led programme that provides one-to-one language and communication support to early years’ children. The programme is designed to ensure that they have the skills to start primary school ready to read.

Story Starters was launched at Coram Campus in Bloomsbury, where the film from Dolly Parton was shown for the first time. Children’s author and illustrator Sophy Henn also attended and engaged in a story telling and drawing session for local children.

It is a new collaborative project between national children’s literacy charity Beanstalk, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and LuCid (The ESRC International Centre for Language and Communicative Development) which aims to give children the support they need to develop their language and reading skills. Research has shown that children who benefit from high-quality support in their early years start school on average three months ahead in their literacy and language skills, compared with children who don’t. The programme has been made possible by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, whose Dream Fund chose Story Starters to receive £1 million in funding in January 2017.

Beanstalk is now looking for volunteers to become Story Starters in pre-schools and nurseries particularly in Barnet, Hackney, Islington and Wandsworth.

Story Starter volunteers will visit children twice a week and support three children for 20 minutes each. The sessions are fun, interactive and hugely beneficial to the children receiving extra support. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library will provide every Story Starter child with high-quality, professionally-selected, age-appropriate books. These books will be sent directly to both the early years setting and the home of each Story Starter child, ensuring that they can enjoy the magic of stories at home as well as when they are with their Story Starter.

Kirsteen Watson, UK Regional Director, says “The Dollywood Foundation UK has thoroughly enjoyed being part of this exciting new partnership, with a great mix of different professional backgrounds all adding to the development of ‘Story Starters’. Most refreshing of all is the pragmatic approach of all partners who are each willing to roll up their sleeves and just give it a go! Ultimately, we’re working together to give children the gift of reading for pleasure. We know that our monthly book deliveries get children excited about books from a young age and with volunteers helping children alongside their parents/carers at home, this will help boost children’s language development even more. We’re looking forward to the next chapter of this story.”

Ginny Lunn, CEO of Beanstalk, says “Beanstalk is excited to be working with our partners and local nurseries on our new programme Story Starters. We know how important it is for children in the early years of their education to receive support with their language development, as this enables them to start primary school ready to read and able to thrive throughout their lives. We are asking for people to come forward as volunteers now so they can be trained as Story Starters this term. As a Beanstalk reading helper myself, I know you’ll find it will be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done so do join us.”

You can find out more about becoming a Story Starter by visiting, or calling Beanstalk on 0845 450 0301.

October 18, 2017