Leeds chosen to be part of £250,000 project to expand free community play libraries across city

A network of free community play libraries will be set up across Leeds following a significant cash boost.
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Education charity SHINE has awarded £249,000 to fund a major new project for early years children.

The scheme, which will be run by early development experts Boromi, will see free play resources being made available in 250 settings around the North.

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More 16,000 children are expected to benefit from the scheme in the first three years of the project.

Leeds is one of four areas to be chosen to pilot the scheme in the first year.

Leeds has been chosen as  as pilot area for £250,000 project which will see a network of free community play libraries in the city. Leeds has been chosen as  as pilot area for £250,000 project which will see a network of free community play libraries in the city.
Leeds has been chosen as as pilot area for £250,000 project which will see a network of free community play libraries in the city.

This comes after a trial of the community model in a pilot with three Leicestershire libraries in 2022.

Creator of Boromi Evie Keough said: "We’ll be working within each of these community settings to pilot our ‘Pop-in Play Libraries’.

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“We’ve previously always worked with children aged between three and five years, and yet we know the greatest window for change is actually before the age of three.

“This will allow us to work from birth, supporting families from the very beginning and that’s why I’m so excited by the potential of this community model working alongside our school-based programme.”

Boromi has successfully established a network of Play Libraries, working in partnership with primary schools and nurseries across the country.

A two-year evaluation of the programme was undertaken and it was found that children accessing Boromi bags experienced an average 25 percentage-point change in their communication skills during the last school year.

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Evie said: "Working through school settings alone will not be enough. We need to also be working in a way where we’re able to reach younger children, from birth."

To achieve this, Boromi is developing community ‘Pop-in Play Libraries’, which will operate alongside its existing schools’ programme and within the local communities surrounding lead schools.

Evie said: “The impact of poverty on language can be seen as early as two-years-old. We’ve known for a long time that we need to find a way to reach children before they start in a formal setting, and this funding enables us to do that.

“We are developing Play Libraries that can be accessed from birth, reaching new families of children aged zero to five years who we simply wouldn’t be able to connect with through our schools’ programme alone.

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“Schools will remain central to what we do, but we will be working deeper into communities through settings such as libraries, children’s centres, food banks and family hubs.

“We want to develop an agile approach that means we can work in a more bespoke community-based way.

“Our long-term ambition is to develop a national infrastructure of free, accessible and hands-on play support that families can access within their local community. Our priority is to identify cold spots, finding local communities where the need is greatest, where the support doesn’t currently exist.”

Find out more information about SHINE via its website.

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