An inspiring year of reading - and it's all thanks to you
Published on: 08 December 2016 Author: Diana Gerald
Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust, looks back on 2016 and all the things we've achieved, thanks to supporters and families like you.
I always enjoy looking back over the year at Christmas and reflecting on what we've achieved.
When I started to look back at this year, what really struck me was the range of activity that BookTrust carries out, all aimed at our core goal of encouraging more children to love reading.
National Bookstart Week
Starting with our youngest stakeholders, National Bookstart Week this year saw over 400,000 mini A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea books being distributed to children via a range of partners including libraries, children's centres, foodbanks and neonatal units.
In Wales, we launched National Bookstart Week/Wythnos Genedlaethol Dechrau Da with Denbighshire Libraries at the Seaquarium in Rhyl - attended by 200 families, the local Assembly Member and representatives from Health Visiting, the local council and Education.
And in Northern Ireland, with generous funding from Belfast Harbour, we were able to celebrate our 'Under the Sea' theme with Belfast nursery school children at the Harbour Commissioner's Office.
Tigers and sleep tips
Bath Book Bed, our Jo Frost-fronted campaign aimed at sleep-deprived parents of babies and small children, was launched this year. Jo, a wonderful ambassador for BookTrust, appeared everywhere from ITV's Loose Women to a children's centre in Birmingham, giving out her wonderfully sensible advice and helping families get a better night's sleep with this simple routine.
And sticking with young children, this year also saw us celebrate the wonderful Judith Kerr with our BookTrust Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented at a very special ceremony held at London Zoo (and yes, there were tigers. Plus tea. But not both together).
Working with schools
Reading at home with babies and young children is incredibly important, but as they grow older, schools become key partners in supporting reading enjoyment.
We work closely with schools and our autumn event series for school professionals was incredibly popular. The events were led by special guest Prue Goodwin, a children's book and literacy specialist who explained why reading for pleasure matters in the Key Stage 2 classroom and how to support children at key 'pivot points' by choosing and using great books.
One delegate was inspired to lead an in-school Continuing Professional Development (CPD) on reading for pleasure for her team. Another said they realised how important it is to encourage children to enjoy choosing books and 'carry on reading Rainbow Magic books rather than steer them away to something else'.
As part of our drive to support teachers, we also sent our Great Books Guide to every primary school in the country, packed full of advice on books that we know will engage and excite children, whether they're reluctant readers or can't read enough.
In Wales, meanwhile, we launched the new Boomerang Book Bags as part of our Pori Drwy Stori programme, exploring creative ways of getting children and families reading. Across Wales, books and fun magazines went home from school - and came back!
At BookTrust, we are passionate about ensuring that all children have access to books, support and guidance to enable them to get into a reading habit.
But we couldn't do what we do without the inspirational authors who write such amazing books and give up so much time to inspire children, and of course their publishers, who do so much to support us.
Just this year, our Time to Read campaign trended on Twitter after our president Michael Morpurgo, delivering our first Annual Lecture, called for 'Storytime' to be held in every primary school across the country.
As part of the campaign, we highlighted important research from Egmont about children's reading, and gave out 700,000 copies of the wonderful Kitchen Disco by Clare Foges and Al Murphy to reception-aged children. This was to encourage families to keep reading with their children even once they start to read independently themselves.
Clare and Al also featured in our Children's Book Week school events (held across the country), along with Cressida Cowell and Nick Butterworth. All were mobbed by enthusiastic children (and sometimes their parents), and Twitter was buzzing with thoughts on the importance of reading enjoyment.
In Northern Ireland, meanwhile, the BookTrust Stories Tour, supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland Lottery Project Funding, saw authors including Juno Dawson, Nick Sharratt, Dan Freedman and Chris Haughton inspiring over 1000 children across Northern Ireland.
And at Literary Leicester, Jacqueline Wilson, gave an incredible talk as part of our Letterbox Club, which reaches looked-after children with much-loved books, resources and more.
Reaching children through libraries and eBooks
Finally, our Children's Laureate, Chris Riddell finished his School Library Tour, in which he met over 1,500 children and their school librarians in the North West (along with many hundreds more over all over the country in the past year).
Chris is a passionate campaigner for school libraries and is calling for every school to have a library service they can be proud of and, where possible, a school librarian.
But reading isn't just about books, and as the world becomes increasingly digital, it's important to understand the role digital can play in children's reading.
It's why we worked with the Open University to release 'The Digital Reading Habits of Children' (PDF, 2.04MB) this year, exploring young children's use of digital media and eBooks.
Opening doors with your help
We like to say that it's not a book; it's a doorway. Looking back, it's gratifying to see just how many doors we have opened this year.
Our core programmes, Bookstart and Treasure, reach the parents and carers of every baby and toddler in the country, and we also reach those who need us most (this year we reached every special needs school in the country with books and resources).
There are, of course, many more doors to open - and I look forward to us doing just that next year. But we can't do it alone, so I would like to finish with a thank you - to everyone who does so much to support what we do.
The list is endless - but special, heartfelt thanks must go to local authorities, health visitors, early years professionals, librarians, teachers, Arts Council England, BookTrust Friends, corporate supporters, authors, publishers, journalists, bloggers, ambassadors... We couldn't open these doors without you.