BookTrust Storytime: “Families are amazed at how engaged their children have been”

Published on: 17 July 2023

During its second editionBookTrust Storytime reached more than 50,000 children in their early years in England and Northern Ireland via more than 2,300 libraries. 

Libraries hosted a series of storytime and rhyme sessions for children aged 0-5 and more than 30 per cent of them were first-time library visitors. Library staff used BookTrust resources and carefully selected books to create and host these sessions. Families who took part then voted for their favourite book for the 2023 BookTrust Storytime Prize. 

Here’s how librarians and families felt about BookTrust Storytime and its impact.

Rob reads to his daughter at North Bridlington LibraryRob reads to his daughter at North Bridlington Library

Offering something special to encourage families to step inside the library 

Louise Wright is the Librarian for Outreach and Families for North Somerset Council. Her role involves helping families in the area overcome barriers to visiting the library and coming up with enticing ideas to increase first-time visitors. She also manages how BookTrust Storytime is delivered by different libraries across the county.  

“A library event has to be a little bit more special to get families in,” she says.It has to have a nice hook or draw. This definitely encourages that leap over the barrier of paying for parking, poor public transport, and rurality.  

“Having a selection of six books for BookTrust Storytime, each with a nice theme, gives library staff a really good way to approach story and rhyme sessions. It’s lovely because it means we can use each book to create themed events.  

Louise adds: “It was really good to give all of the libraries the chance to experiment with running the BookTrust Storytime programme. Every library got a chance to deliver it slightly differently and we really learned from it that not one model fits all. 

“For example, one of our libraries, The Campus, is technically self-service. We made some Storytime Prize self-service resources for this library. We used the BookTrust owl book ends to mark where the BookTrust Storytime books were in the library. We had a little treasure hunt sheet children could use to find the owls. It meant children could come into the library, do the treasure hunt to find the owl books, and tell us which of them they want to borrow – and they got a sticker at the end of that.  

Louise says families loved the stickers that came with the BookTrust Storytime, and that having these as resources to hand is incredibly helpful for libraries. 

“One of the best methods we have to get kids into the library is being able to offer them stickers that they can collect over time,” she says.We’ve found that freebies are really effective in terms of getting children into the library and introducing them to the library environment. That’s why BookTrust Storytime is such a priority for us.”  

Helping libraries start their own storytime  

Angela and a young reader at Chew Valley Library

Also in North Somerset, Angela Cruse is a volunteer at Chew Valley Library – which is run entirely by volunteers. Thanks to this year’s BookTrust Storytime, the team were able to offer their first ever interactive story time events for families with young children. 

Angela says: “As a community library run by volunteers, having a set of books and ready-made resources has given us support and structure to launch a storytime and rhyme time offering. The Storytime set of books and resources are fantastic and have made it possible for us to get started. 

She adds: “Families are amazed at how engaged their children have been during BookTrust Storytime sessions. They appreciate the chance the sessions give them to explore new books. They are also pleased that BookTrust is interested in their opinions and that they're being asked about what they and their children like about different books.  

Each book from BookTrust Storytime had something different to offer – whether it was memorable language, rhyme, humour, or a story about the importance of friendship – and the picture paddles were very engaging.” 

Trying out new ways to attract parents and their children 

Librarian Paul reads on the floor at North Bridlington Library

Kimberley Harston is a Librarian and Bookstart Coordinator for East Riding Libraries in Yorkshire. For this year’s BookTrust Storytime, Kimberley and her team tried a new approach to hosting these interactive rhyme and story sessions for families. 

“We picked two libraries in East Riding of Yorkshire to take part in BookTrust Storytime: Beverly and North Bridlington,” She says. We decided to give BookTrust Storytime a bash on Saturdays each week at both libraries. We saw that more dads were actually able to come along – they don’t normally come to library events during the week.” 

This has left a legacy of a regular Saturday Storytime groups at the two libraries – both of which have a growing community of dads. 

Rob is one of the dads who now attends the weekly Saturday Storytime sessions at North Bridlington Library with his daughter. He says: “I think a lot of parents may not be confident to read a story with intonation and so on. The librarians who read the stories here are great every week, and I think parents could learn from that.  

Vicci also attends the library’s Saturday Storytime sessions with her four year-old grandaughter. “I think it’s good for her social skills at this age - it’s really beneficial,” she says.The children start chatting about the story afterwards between themselves sometimes.

"Even if you don’t think they are, they’re taking things in: the rhyming, the words. I think it helps them to read later on. It’s so important to learn to read, it’s the basis of everything else.” 

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Read the report: BookTrust Storytime summary of key findings from 2022-23

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