The Storytime Foundation’s Books for Babies programme extended into the South Island last week, when it launched in Christchurch with the help of two local authors, Helen Taylor and Ben Brown.

The highly successful initiative provides books to newborn children with high needs, with the aim of helping parents create a warm, nurturing environment for their children.

Storytime Foundation Chief Executive Tony Culliney said Books for Babies was designed to encourage families to bond with their newborn children through reading books and telling stories.

The programme was not just about gifting books, it was about encouraging parents to talk to, read to and be close to their newborn child.

“Real moments of magic can occur when cuddling and playing with a young child. Reading is a great way to help build a loving, caring relationship between parents and children, something that’s vitally important to a child’s health and development.”

The Books for Babies programme began in Auckland in 1997, and then launched in Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty in 2012 as part of a national expansion.

In Christchurch, Books for Babies, is being delivered in cooperation with Plunket and Christchurch Libraries. The first communities to receive the programme, being rolled out over the next six months, are in Aranui, Linwood, Shirley, St Albans and Avonside.

Funding and in-kind sponsorship for the programme has come from a number of supporters, including the Tindall Foundation, Canterbury Community Trust, Rotary Club of Riccarton, Penguin publishers, and other funders and donors.

Mr Culliney is hopeful that once the programme is underway, further funding will be secured through individual donations.

“It costs $50 for each child to complete the programme and we currently have enough funding to start the Canterbury programme with 300 families. Over the next six months or so I hope to be able to gradually expand the programme across the region”, he says.