INITIATIVES to improve literacy in Bradford saw thousands of young readers take part in the past year, with almost 10,000 books given out to young children.

The district’s libraries run Rhyme Time challenges, which bring together parents and under fives to learn five specific rhymes together over a set period of time.

This year saw the library services working with more than 2,000 children and about 1,100 adults as part of the challenge.

Funded by the council’s early childhood services, the scheme saw a big leap in families taking part compared to last year, when 1,500 children and 1,000 adults took part.

The hope is that the Rhyme Time scheme gets young children used to literacy, even before they have learned to read, preparing them for school and tackling Bradford’s traditionally low literacy levels.

Meanwhile the Bookstart programme, organised through Bradford Libraries, gifted 9,658 “treasure” gifts to children in the district’s nurseries during the 2015-16 school year. Each gift contained a free book and information for parents about sharing books with children.

The aim is to encourage reading together and get parents to read to their children from an early age even if it is only for ten minutes every day.

Books are given to children when they are under 12 months and when they are three.

Bookstart also saw many of Bradford Council’s 30 libraries across the district host teddy bears picnics over the summer break. Children were encouraged to take part in crafts, reading and activities to get them used to visiting libraries at a young age and reading with their families.

And major event held in City Park in June to mark Bookstart week attracted hundreds of young bookworms.

The Bookstart Treasure Gift scheme is funded through the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, along with sponsorship from a range of children’s book publishers.

The packs are gifted on the lines of the birth rate so if it goes up, then the number of packs goes up. In Bradford there is a 100 per cent gifting rate.

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, portfolio holder for environment, sport and culture, said: “Bookstart and the Rhyme Challenge have had real success in encouraging very young children and their parents to become familiar with words and books.

“Helping our young children to read is so important if they’re to get the best start in life.”