Learning together at Discovery Cafe in Fakenham
- Credit: Archant
A new scheme to boost communication and literacy skills in babies and toddlers is being piloted in north Norfolk.
The county council's Discovery Café programme helps bring stories to life by using sensory activities, objects and craft.
Aimed at children aged three and under, cafes are informal sessions where parents share a book with their children and then take part in activities connected to the story.
Delivered at children's centres across the county, the aim is to get children looking at books from birth, with parents talking about the story and helping their children to explore what is going on.
Children at Fakenham Gateway Children's Centre have been reading The Tiger Who Came to Tea with their parents and carers.
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They then took part in role play using cuddly tiger toys, tea sets and shopping baskets, explored colour and touch with orange and black paint and developed their motor skills by making their own sandwiches and tins of tiger food.
Lindsey Symington, an early years adviser with the county council's home learning team, said: 'Sharing stories and books with children is important from birth because interaction with their parents and carers is crucial to children's early development.
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'By bringing stories to life in this way children get an early interest in books and their motor skills and senses are supported, which helps brain development, communication and eventually reading and writing.
'About a third of children's centres in the county are now delivering these cafes and they are really popular with parents and carers, giving them new ways to play with their children, support their learning and socialise with other children and families.'
Fakenham Gateway Children's Centre is holding the cafes every month, using popular children's stories like The Three Little Pigs, Dear Zoo, Owl Babies and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Staff from Fakenham Library have also supported the scheme by providing books and reading stories at the cafes.
Rosie Newstead, who visits the cafes with her son, said: 'I've been to nearly all of these and it gives him a chance to learn and explore new things. I hadn't really thought of making things and doing activities around books before but we have made lots of things together now.'
Norfolk saw record improvements in the proportion of five-year-olds achieving a good level of development in 2014 but performance remains slightly below the national average.
James Joyce, chairman of the county's children's services committee, said: 'Parents and carers have an absolutely vital role in supporting their children's education both in their early years and school years and, via children's centres, we want to give families all the support and ideas we can to help their children's progress.'