In Europe



Letterbox Club

The Letterbox Club ran a pilot for 150 looked after children in Scotland in 2013, which gave us the opportunity to examine the specific educational needs of looked after children in Scotland with the long-term aim of making the programme available to as many eligible children as possible.

Find out more about the Letterbox Club in Scotland


BookbugScotland’s early years programme is run by Scottish Book Trust, which is a separate organisation from BookTrust. The free books programme for under-5s and their families is known as Bookbug.

For more information about Bookbug please visit the Scottish Book Trust website



Buchstart Salzburg: mit Büchern wachsen

Buchstart SalzburgBuchstart Salzburg logoThis government-funded scheme was established in January 2015, as part of the Leseland Salzburg (Reading Land Salzburg) programme, which has the goal of all local children being literate by the time they complete compulsory education. The desired reading and writing skills include text comprehension, reading enjoyment, media literacy and familiarity with books and ‘literary’ language.

Buchstart Salzburg book cover - Das bin ich. Ich zeig es dirThe Buchstart Salzburg programme specifically aims to reach every baby in the Land Salzburg (about 5,000 children) a few days after birth. Every mother is given the ‘Elternbrief’ (‘letter for parents’) and the Bookstart book Das bin ich. Ich zeig es dir (This is me. I’ll show you.) In the future, they aim to learn from other Bookstart providers and extend the programme step-by-step in co-operation with public libraries and Bibliothekswerk.

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Channel Islands

As well as gifting books throughout England, Wales and Northern Island, Bookstart also operates in the Channel Islands. In Guernsey in 2010, nearly 1,500 children received book packs; in Jersey, over 800 babies received their Bookstart packs.

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Boekstart, Flanders

Boekstart, Belgium

Inspired by Bookstart in the UK, Boekstart aims to bring every child and parent in Flanders into contact with books.

Over 25,000 children receive packs of books every year throughout 145 communities. Packs are provided for babies when they are 6 months old at their local health centre. At 15 months, parents are encouraged to get a second pack from their local library. In addition, throughout Flanders, parents can get two brochures with information about books and reading in healthcare centres.

Boekstart is coordinated by the reading organisation Iedereen Leest (Everybody Reads), who have used research from Bookstart in the UK to convince local partners. Main partners in the programme are: local authorities, the public libraries and Kind en Gezin, the Flemish government agency for the wellbeing of young children and their families through family support services.

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BogstartThe Bogstart programme runs in 15 cities around Denmark, and targets areas with particuarly high levels of unemployment. It aims to give families positive experiences of sharing books, which helps preschool children develop vital language skills.

Since launching in 2009, Bogstart has given packs of books to nearly 7,000 children every year. The packs, which are given out at local libraries, are gifted at four stages: at 6 months, 12 months, 18 months and 3 years.

Branch libraries have forged partnerships with local societies, unions, clubs and housing associations, and Bogstart have also forged links with the Danish prison service.

Libraries are already reporting an increase in both memberships and visits, and further evidence of the programme's impact is expected upon the completion of an evaluation.

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The Lesestart programme aims make a difference to children's literacy and language skills by introducing them to reading as early as possible.

Lesestart packs are gifted at three stages – at a child's health check-up at 12 months; at three years by the local library; and when the child starts school.

Starting in 2011, 400,000 children got packs every year. From 2016 the number of packs has increased to 800,000 per year which makes a total of 4.8 million sets for children in Germany from 2011 to 2019. All packs include an age-appropriate book as well as guidance material for parents that explains how reading can help their child develop.

Lesestart is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. There are also important partnerships with the German Library Association, the Association of Pediatrics, as well as welfare institutions.

Supporting research

Evaluation shows the impact on parents of gifting book packs:

  • The picture book and the read aloud guide are central elements for parents.
  • There is a noticeable increase in what parents know about good reading aloud habits.
  • To increase effectiveness it is important that upon handing over the sets, a thorough explanation takes place on the intent and purpose of the bag‘s contents and their relevance.
  • Effectiveness increases considerably if parents take a close look at the guide for parents.

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Buchstart, Hamburg

Buchstart, HamburgEstablished in 2007, Buchstart promotes the love of books from an early age and aims to make parents aware of the advantages of sharing books with their babies and toddlers.

The programme was started by the Hamburg Department of Culture and receives much of its funding from the city's government. Buchstart gets further financial backing from local companies and foundations, with the main sponsor being publishers Gruner+Jahr AG. Organisations have been very supportive of Buchstart because they believe it fills a gap for children, both in terms of culture and in education.Buchstart were inspired by many of the practical ways that Bookstart runs in the UK, and worked along those lines to find their own 'best practice'.

Buchstart packs are handed out to almost every one-year-old child in Hamburg at their health check-ups. About 18,000 children benefit from receiving a pack every year.

Buchstart, Hamburg mother and son reading

In addition, there are around 50 groups across Hamburg for parents and their young children that meet every week to sing nursery songs and share books. Some of these groups are held in languages other than German, such as Turkish, Russian and Portuguese.

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Nati per Leggere

Nati per LeggereFunded mainly by public and private donations, Nati per Leggere offers free children’s books to families throughout Italy, with a particular focus on those in disadvantaged areas.

Since the programme started in 1999, more than 250,000 children every year have benefited from free books – a third of the entire target population. Families get their books when they are visited by their paediatrician, although in some areas children get their books at their first library visit.

Research has demonstrated how effective the programme is. As well as improving families’ attitudes to reading, Nati per Leggere has also increased parents reading aloud with their children, and has halved the percentage of parents not reading to their children

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Bookstart – Babies Love Books, South Tyrol

Babies Love Books, South TyrolBookstart – Babies Love Books operates in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy, and gives packs of books to around 5,000 children every year. These are given to around 80% of children at two stages – to babies at 6 months old, and to toddlers aged 18 months.South Tyrol Bookstart books

Launched in 2007 and funded by the provincial government, Bookstart in South Tyrol has forged a key partnership with hospitals, who tell parents about the programme. Additionally, the programme has trained library staff to organise activities to promote Bookstart locally and to let parents know how important it is to share books.



Aqra Mieghi (Read with Me)

Aqra MieghiAqra Mieghi logoStarted in October 2013, this bilingual programme is run by the Ministry for Education, in collaboration with an existing programme Reading 'n' Rhymes, and the Centre for Literacy of the University of Malta.

The objectives of the programme are to promote a love of books among children aged 0-3 years through fun and playful activities and by involving their parents or caregivers. Enthusiastic volunteers are trained to engage both children and their parents. Most of the highly interactive sessions are conducted in local libraries. In the first phase of the project, packs with books in both Maltese and English are made available to the parents and children groups. Volunteers are provided with relevant training and opportunities to observe and participate in demonstration sessions.

Through a combination of government and private support, it is hoped that the initial phase of the programme will reach 300-500 children. Additional sponsorship and funding are being sought to make more books available to the parents and children groups. Through increased funding and support the programme coordinators hope to extend this to more families, as well as provide parental education opportunities, training courses and materials about the benefits of shared reading, etc.

Find out more about the Centre for Literacy:



BoekStartWorking with libraries, health centres, publishers and other partners, BoekStart encourages parents across the Netherlands to start reading with their baby.

With backing from national and local government, packs of books and tips are gifted to babies in their first year. At present, between 60,000 and 75,000 babies (about 40% of the total) get packs every year, and there are plans to expand the programme to reach 90%, as well as offering the programme to older children through daycare centres.

Since launching 2011, nearly four out of five libraries in the Netherlands work with Boekstart, and benefit from the many children and parents who join the library as a result of the programme.

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Information in English about Boekstart is available from this link


Crescer a Ler

Crescer a lerEstablished in 2009 by the Professional Association of Childhood Education (APEI), Crescer a Ler (Read to Grow) is the national programme for Portugal that promotes a love of books and encourages families to read together.

Books are gifted to all newborn babies at their civil registration in hospital. In addition, at various stages children get free books from their local library, so that each child in Portugal can get three to four books before their sixth birthday.

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Republic of Ireland

Preparing for Life, Dublin

Preparing for Life launched in April 2007 and gifts book packs to babies in the northside of Dublin. Run by a local development company, the Northside Partnership, Preparing for Life is co-funded by national government and philanthropic organisations.

Targeting the more economically deprived north side of the city, the programme promotes children's development through the gift of book packs to every child before they start school.

Books4Babies, Wexford

Books4BabiesInspired by Bookstart in the UK, Books4Babies launched in 2012 as a pilot in Wexford, Ireland, and will gift books to around 1,200 babies over two years. The scheme is organised through a voluntary charitable organisation and encourages parents and carers to regularly read with their babies and use the local library.

A Books4Babies Ireland gift pack contains two books (chosen by a panel of experts), information to parents on the importance of reading, an invitation to join the local library and information about local services. Packs are distributed by public health nurses at a baby’s 7–9 month developmental check, so that parents learn about the importance of early learning and books as part of a professional consultation.



‘For Every Baby a Book’ (Za svku bebu knjiga), Pozega

For every baby a bookBased in the town of Pozega in Serbia, the ‘For Every Baby a Book’ programme exists to inspire a love of books in preschool children. Funded by the Serbian ministry of culture, ‘For Every Baby a Book’ started in 2011 and aims for every child in the town to receive a book pack.

At their baby’s first year health check-up, parents are invited to get their pack by going to the local library. Packs include a book, bookmarks, a bookplate and membership card for the library.

As well as the gift of the book packs, the local librarian visits the kindergarten to explain to parents how important it is to share books from an early age.




TxikikidsIn the city of San Sebastian in the Basque region of Spain, weekly events organised by Mestiza offer preschool children and their parents or carers the chance to get involved with books and stories together.
There are three 'Txiki Kids Corner' activities on offer at local libraries, in Spanish, Basque and English:

  • Leer Antes de Leer (‘reading before being able to read’) is for babies and toddlers up to three years old.
  • Liburu Bat – Mundu Bat (‘one book – one world’) is for toddlers from age one up to age four.
  • Liburu Baby Kluba (‘Baby Book Club’) has the same format as 'Leer antes de Leer' but in a different library.

As well as sharing stories, there are activities such as playing musical instruments or painting and, at the last session, children are given free books, donated by the library. Thanks to the programme, parents read more to their children, visit and borrow more books from the library and buy more books to share. The programmes have run since June 2009 and are funded mainly from local government.

Punto de Cuento

This privately sponsored programme was established in October 2013 by Unpuntocurioso – a children’s literacy and creativity centre in Salamanca.

Punto de Cuento

Described as a ‘kind of tiny library’, the Punto de Cuento programme gifts books to children at 9 months and reaches around 20 families per month. The target is families with children really interested in reading as a means of communication. The overall objective is to promote reading for children aged 9 months to 3 years, but work is also being done on a bilingual programme for babies.

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Buchstart Schweiz

Buchstart SchweizBuchstart Schweiz is a national programme that gifts book packs to around 35,000 babies every year. Launched in 2008, the pack is given in a babies' first year, and reaches just under half of all Swiss children.

Packs are gifted at various times in a child's first year, depending on where in Switzerland they live. In the French-speaking region, packs are given in the hospital when the child is born; babies in the Italian-speaking part get packs when they are 6 months, and children in the German-speaking areas receive their pack at 6-12 months. Packs are gifted by paediatricians, parental or health care advisors, or libraries – all of whom work together in local networks.

Buchstart Schweiz has also linked up with the national library federation to run courses for librarians, supporting them to create baby-friendly Buchstart spaces in their libraries and organise family events. As a result of Buchstart, libraries in Switzerland are now more accessible for families to use and enjoy.

Buchstart has also helped libraries forge new partnerships with local pediatricians and other health professionals. Library staff are also now starting to work together with specialists to support families with other languages.

Launched in 2008 with government funding, today Buchstart Schweiz is funded through reading non-profits Bibliomedia and SIKJM, as well as various lottery funds in each canton.

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