Bookstart Toddler: “It’s about that bubble you create when you’re sharing a book with the child – that togetherness that you have.”

Published on: 26 April 2023

Find out how early years practitioners are delivering BookTrust Toddler – a new pack of books and support aimed at children aged 1-2, with supporting materials for practitioners – to help families build their confidence in sharing stories together

At BookTrust, we understand how crucial the first few years of a child’s life are for shaping their future potential and life chances. Reading and sharing stories in the early years is proven to support families to bond with their children and contribute to their wider development and progress.

Our Bookstart Toddler and Bookstart Pre-schooler packs provide targeted support for families in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who have the most to gain from developing a regular reading habit. The programme supports early years professionals with resources and books they can use in their work to help families on their reading journeys.

Supporting families in Northern Ireland to get off to a great start

In Northern Ireland, SureStart Centres are specifically located in areas of high deprivation and aim to support children’s development and progress. Beechmount SureStart is one of a network of 21 SureStarts who are using BookTrust resources to support local children and families on their reading journeys.

“What we do throughout the first four years of the child's life is based on creating strong, positive relationships with their parents or carers,” says Penny Ambrose, Co-ordinator for Beechmount Sure Start. “Our remit is really to make parenting the enjoyable journey that it should be. There are underlying health and educational messages that we drip feed throughout the year to help get children ready for nursery school.  If we can get across those messages, then we can help those parents and their children have a great start.” 

“Bookstart Toddler and Bookstart Pre-schooler are being incorporated into the fantastic work of early years practitioners in SureStart Centres across Northern Ireland. It’s been wonderful to see first-hand how the packs and books are being used to engage children with the life-changing benefits of reading at a crucial point in their lives, and how much fun SureStart families are having together exploring these packs and the stories within them!” Chris Eisenstadt, Senior Engagement Manager and Director of Northern Ireland for BookTrust

How the BookTrust packs support early years practitioners with their work

Beechmount SureStart decided to create their own bespoke programme to share the Bookstart resources and inspire their families to share books and stories with their children. Informed by the Storyteller resources they received from BookTrust and the Bookstart Toddler packs they would gift families, Beechmount SureStart designed a series of lively, fun and accessible sessions for families to attend over a four week period. “What we find with the Bookstart Toddler packs is you could deliver this anywhere,” says Penny. “You don’t need any additional resources or technology.”

Angela McCabe, family support worker at Beechmount SureStart – who planned out the programme - says: “I picked out the books (from the Bookstart Storyteller pack) I thought would engage the children really well. BookTrust has provided a little card with a rhyme and a song on it along with each book. [The resources] made it very easy for me to plan activities each week to expand on the book – maybe through messy play or making something that matches the book.”

Angela led interactive, playful sessions with puppets, crafts, singing and moments where parents could share a story with their child – all of which were based around the Bookstart Toddler packs and the books, stories and activities within them.

“The books were fantastic,” says Angela. “They had just the right amount of pages. I think that helps parents build their confidence. It makes parents feel like: I’ve done really good today. I’ve read them a whole book.”

“The programmes that BookTrust have designed have really enabled us to deliver our messages to parents in a lovely, easy, friendly manner, where the parents feel welcome. The proof is in the pudding. With some programmes, you’ll get ten people come the first week, but then they don’t come back. This time, parents have engaged and stayed with the programme.”

The importance of families continuing their reading journey at home

“I really hope that families continue to read at home,” says Angela, “and I really hope they take away from this that it doesn’t have to be a long story. We would always encourage parents to just take the book out of the Bookstart Toddler pack and just look at the pictures with their child, point out the beautiful colours and enjoy that quality time.”

Penny adds: “Our aim is to foster that love for books. It’s about that bubble you create when you’re sharing a book with the child – that togetherness that you have.”

Aine, who comes to the Beechmount Sure Start with her two year old daughter, has been taking part in the sessions run by Angela.

“We had a couple of books (at home), but I’ve actually learned from coming here how to enjoy reading books to her a lot more,” she says. “It’s something I probably wouldn’t have done an awful lot of. Now, we’re doing it every night. Before that, it would be a once-a-week kind of thing. Now, it’s every night.”

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