AN innovative scheme introduced by Halton Council is helping to boost literacy.

More than 3,700 tots have received special bundles of books to encourage their parents and carers to read to them.

Bookstarts are given to babies in their first year and treasure packs are children aged three to four.

Clr Phil Harris, board member for libraries, said: "Early book sharing encourages a curiosity about life and an eagerness to learn. It helps to develop a child's natural ability as a lifelong learner.

"Many parents are surprised to learn that chlldren can benefit from books at such an early age, but research shows that children who have an early introduction to books do better at school and benefit educationally, culturally, socially and emotionally."

Free rhymetime sessions, which include stories, rhymes and crafts for the under fives are held at Halton’s four libraries as follows: Ditton every Wednesday from 10.30am to 11.30am, Halton Lea every Thursday 11am to 11.45am, Runcorn every Friday 11am to 11.45am (from March 7), and Widnes every Friday 11am to 11.45am.