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Blog post

Meet Literacy Champion Carrie | Smethwick

03 Jun 2024

All too often, low-income families miss out on opportunities to create meaningful and formative memories with their little ones – having to focus their time and money on prioritising food, warmth, and shelter.

National Literacy Trust volunteer, Carrie Pearson, and the rest of her team at New Beginnings in Smethwick, work to ensure that these families have the space and time they need to create these memories. From providing new-born baby bundles, to hosting play and stay sessions, the team has become a lighthouse in the Smethwick community during the hardships of the cost-of-living crisis and before. As the founder and CEO of New Beginnings Community, Carrie is a leading light within the Smethwick community and understands the importance of having a passion for reading.

Reading was a big part of my life when I was growing up. One of my earliest memories was visiting the mobile library in Rowley Regis, and then Lion Farm Library as I reached my teens. I loved all books; everything from ‘Garfield’ comic books by Jim Davies to ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl but my absolute favourite was ‘Charlottes Webb’ by EB White. This book taught me that no matter who we are, how small we are, and how long we are in this world for, we can make an impact in someone’s life that will never be forgotten. The friendship that Charlotte and Wilbur have, has stuck with me into my adult life, the values stayed with me and has helped shape me into the person I am today


Carrie and the National Literacy Trust in the Black Country

During the summer of 2022, Carrie’s passion for reading and her role in her community inspired her to become a volunteer Literacy Champion with the National Literacy Trust in the Black Country. In this role, Carrie hosts events at the New Beginnings Centre to provide families with access to fun, engaging, literacy-focused activities. Through their storytelling sessions and book giveaways, New Beginnings and the National Literacy Trust in the Black Country teams empower parents with the skills to continue their child’s literacy journey at home. As a Literacy Champion, Carrie is now also able to include free books in the baby bank and new-born bundles which her and the team provide for vulnerable families.
As a passionate reader herself she understands the important role literacy plays in a child’s overall development from a very young age. Working within the Smethwick community as well as her love for reading has highlighted to Carrie the importance and impact that literacy and access to books can have on a child’s development.

It is surprising how many parents in the Black Country don’t read to their child or don’t have access to the appropriate resources to do so. Before a child can even learn to read and write they need the ability to be able to talk, listen and be understood. Reading books with a child helps to develop these skills. It’s not just about reading the words in the book but talking about pictures together too. For instance, making the sounds of animals or other objects in the book. The families we support often come from low-income backgrounds, so being able to include books in our baby bundles makes a world of difference. Sharing a story is a great bonding opportunity for children and their parents or carers and can be a brilliant way help develop a child’s language skills early on. Access to literacy in our diverse community helps with the ability to understand words and plays a crucial role in developing speech, especially for our families whose English is not their first language. Given the diverse backgrounds of the parents and families we support, we've discovered that for some children, the books we provide are the only ones they own or have access to. We are proud to say that, to date, we have provided over 1,300 packs to families in the Black Country. This is all thanks to our wonderful partnership with the National Literacy Trust in the Black Country.

Black Country_Smethwick_New Beginnings - World Book Day Event

Carrie Pearson CEO of New Beginnings left, Aman Dhanda Hub Manager of National Literacy Trust in the Black Country, right.

An award-winning community organisation

The impact of the support and services that the New Beginnings team provide has been felt throughout the community. In 2023, the charity was awarded the Kings Award for Voluntary Service, highlighting the difference that the charity has made in the community over the years. The award is the highest honour a voluntary organisation can achieve. Carrie had this to say about receiving the award:

To say that we are over the moon at this award is an understatement. This award recognises the amazing people who give their time voluntarily to help run the various projects that operate from our hub in St Mark's, Thimblemill Road, Smethwick. Without the enthusiasm and compassion of them, this award would not have been possible.


What do the parent's think?

If you visit the New Beginning’s website, you’ll see that their goal is to create a place that ‘oozes warmth, empathy and understanding, accessibility togetherness, and belonging, education, and opportunity’. Nowhere is this more evident than in the feedback that is received by parents visiting the New Beginnings centre.

As a neurodivergent parent I appreciate you always being flexible with your time and approach. My differences sometimes prevent me from understanding how to be around people, including my own children. Your support in helping me bond with my children – especially my youngest – and providing so many helpful resources including books we can read together as a family has made the biggest change in our bond for the better. I cannot thank you or recommend you enough!

JB, Parent
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