Sunday, July 20, 2008


Bedfordshire has 25 Sure Start Children's Centres, 18 of which were planned, built and equipped against a challenging Government timescale and opened in April 2008.

Wilstead has a new Children's Centre providing pre school care, lunch clubs, after school care and family support. The finance came from Government, the County and Borough Councils, business sponsors and a lot of hard work by volunteers including Wilstead Pre School parents and local residents.

Recently I attended an Exhibition of our Children's Centres, showcasing their key role in supporting families and children especially those in disadvantaged areas. Eastcotts Centre runs cookery classes for parents and small children, aiming to address child obesity - 9% of five year olds are obese in the Bedford Borough area and by the age of 10 the figure has risen 16.9% - a shocking statistic. This is a major challenge for parents, the National Health Service and the nation.

Also many adults and children cannot read. The National Bookstart Programme provides packs of free books for all babies and toddlers. Our Children's Centres support parents by encouraging them to read to their small children to inspire an enthusiasm to develop good literacy skills at school.

There are 5 million adults in the UK with a reading age of 12 or less, which has a devastating effect on their ability to work and enjoy a fulfilled life. To understand why watch the new Channel programme on Mondays "Can't Read Can't Write" Phil Beadle, an award-winning teacher, tries to teach a group of adults to read.

Bedfordshire's Children's Centres are helping to address this serious problem by encouraging small children to want to learn to read and write at an early age.

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