Storytime Foundation Trust (SFT) has been providing books to New Zealand families since 1997. Its programmes are designed to develop parents’ skills around reading to their children, encouraging their own storytelling, singing, playing and literacy skills. SFT’s overall aim is to promote parent-child attachment and support children’s cognitive development in readiness for school. During its first 20 years, SFT has distributed 175,451 books to around 45,000 families. Under its Family focus area, The Tindall Foundation (TTF) has made direct donations of $459,500 to SFT since 2010. Among the projects assisted by TTF is the Books for Babies programme, supporting families to read to their children and learn more about their cognitive development. 

In 2011, a donation from TTF allowed the Storytime team to employ Tony Culliney as CEO, helping transform the organisation and expanding the project to the wider Auckland area. Through subsequent funding SFT has expanded its reach nationwide and is piloting its First 1000 Days initiative in five locations: the Far North, South Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Porirua and Christchurch.

“Since we have become a national organisation we have been able to attract additional funders, which has allowed us to help more families, strengthen parental capacity and consequently assist more children to develop early language skills, confidence and ultimately higher literacy skills,” Tony says.

Engagement with SFT has met a number of TTF goals — including helping children and young people feel safe and secure — while assisting priorities such as helping whānau/family experiencing intergenerational disadvantage, and supporting projects with national significance and scalability. With the national expansion, SFT has been able to work alongside a number of organisations including Plunket, Tamariki Ora and Family Start. The expansion has also meant the creation and implementation of Taonga mō ngā Tamariki, a programme delivered in prisons that includes Early Reading Together® and Reading Together®.

“We now deliver a structured programme to prison inmates at Ngawha, Wiri Women’s and Mt Eden corrections facilities,” advises Tony. “This improves inmates’ skills and provides books and other resources to improve attachment with their children, particularly at visiting time but ultimately upon release.”