A toy library set up for Reading children from underprivileged backgrounds has reopened after an 18-month pandemic closure.

Woodley Lend & Play Toy Library stocks £10,000-worth of toys and games available to hire for four weeks at a time.

The charity in the Ambleside Centre has proven popular with parents needing a helping hand as well as adults with learning disabilities or dementia.

“It’s great to see whenever kids come into the library, especially if they’ve been there before, every day is like Christmas for them,” said Rich Saunders, one member of a small volunteer committee which runs the library.

“It’s lovely to see that on the faces of the kids and it helps out the parents as well.”

Reading Chronicle: Jessica and Hannah Scott look at what's on offer inside the toy libraryJessica and Hannah Scott look at what's on offer inside the toy library

Set up in 2002, the "Aladdin’s cave of toys" lends them to parents for between 50p and £4.50 – which is used to buy more - but it was forced to close last year by the Covid-19 pandemic.

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“The biggest frustration was that if ever there was a time when an organization like the toy library was needed, it was during the lockdown and that was the one time when we couldn’t step forward and really help out,” Mr Saunders said.

He explained that while the library was originally set up to provide toys and learning equipment for children from underprivileged backgrounds, it quickly gained widespread appeal.

“I think it’s important because there are children for whom, especially at the moment, their parents may not have an awful lot of money – and kids don’t recognize that, for them a toy is a toy. So there can be quite a bit of pressure on parents to ensure their kids have the latest toys.

“Then it does cut down on wastage, not only from toys being consigned to landfill and lofts but also packaging.”

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The toy library is open every Wednesday between 2.30pm and 7pm, and the first and third Saturday of each month between 10am and midday.

To celebrate its reopening, membership is free for the next six months.

If you’re interested in hiring toys or party equipment, or would like to enquire about being a volunteer, more information is available at lendandplay.org.uk