'It’s a time where nothing else matters': Mum Liz on sharing her Bookstart Baby pack

Published on: 27 June 2023

Mum Liz shares how receiving Bookstart Baby from her local library has benefitted her family, and why she feels it's important to develop her baby daughter's relationships with books as early as possible.

A Bookstart Baby pack and a photo of Liz's baby daughter chewing a finger puppet

Liz and her family were going through a big change – with a new baby and a move to a new home in a new area. "At home, it's me, my husband, my eldest daughter (she's ten), my son (he's eight), and our youngest daughter, who is nearly six months old," says Liz.

"My husband is in the military. We've just moved from Nottingham to a village in Shropshire. The last few weeks have been eye-opening. This is my first experience of living in military married quarters and the children have moved schools. It's all been a bit of a learning process, but it's all going well. I've not got too many boxes left in the house to unpack!"

Bookstart Baby – a vital stepping stone for families' reading journeys

An illustration of a young child playing with blocks

Pic: Kip Alizadeh

BookTrust's flagship Bookstart Baby programme is shared via every local authority in England and Wales thanks to funding from Arts Council England and the Welsh government – through libraries, registrars, health visitors, librarians and other early years professionals - gifting up to 580,000 families a pack during the first year of their baby's life to encourage them to start sharing stories.

The Bookstart Baby pack includes an age-appropriate book, a finger puppet and a useful information leaflet that explains the benefits of sharing stories and rhymes with babies. The programme is particularly important for low-income families, most of whom (72% of those surveyed) say the Bookstart Baby packs are some of the first books they own for their child.

"I was really keen to figure out how to get hold of a Bookstart Baby pack when my daughter was born," says Liz. "When we brought the pack back from the library, my goodness, she was mesmerised by the finger puppet!

"The Bookstart Baby puppet has been destroyed because she as chewed on it so much! She was able to follow it around with her eyes because it's so simple and eye-catching. It was honestly so helpful to me when I was trying to change her nappy, it would keep her attention."

The Bookstart Baby puppet also created a way to involve Liz's older two children in sharing stories with their baby sister.

"My eldest daughter liked to use the puppet to sing to our baby daughter," says Liz. "She was loving getting involved. I think she and my son both quite enjoyed singing nursery rhymes that they've not sung for ages. Singing them to their baby sister gave them a new reason to do that."

The importance of sharing books and stories as early as possible

An illustration of a woman sitting with a baby on her lap, reading to her

Pic: Kip Alizadeh

"Our baby daughter is becoming very interested in books now," says Liz. "The book from the Bookstart Baby pack really caught her attention. Her hands go for those pages and she tries to eat them. We're finding that on pages in books that have got really bold images or faces, she's becomes really animated.

"At the moment she is developing so quickly. She's loving having a book in front of her and seeing faces and recognising images. I think being able to see how books work - how to hold them the right way round, seeing that books have got different things inside, or that some have flaps to lift, some of them make noises - is helping her develop a relationship with books.

Liz adds: "I think reading is also really calming for her. It's part of her wind-down routine. It might not always be me who's reading it to her, it might be her brother or sister, her dad, or somebody else in the family. I'm hoping it continues and brings her that comfort she needs before bedtime as she grows up

"By involving her in reading with her older siblings from a young age, hopefully she feels like it's just a like a normal part of the day. Then when she goes off to nursery or to school, having a book in front of her is not something that will feel alien to her."

Reading as bonding time for the whole family

An illustration of an adult holding a baby in their arms, singing to them

Pic: Kip Alizadeh

"We try to enjoy a story together as a family every night," says Liz. "When I've been on my own with the kids in the week, that half an hour, usually before bedtime, is just the perfect wind-down time.

"It's a time where nothing else matters. It doesn't matter if there's laundry to do or dishes to wash. Just being able to sit there, have that half an hour of closeness with the kids and unwind is lovely.

"When my husband's here, often he and my son will sit and look at a book together. My eldest daughter will be curled up in a little ball, with the baby in one arm and my arm around them both. Often we'll have a book in front of us and my eldest will want to read it.

"The children like that warmth from it, the feeling of having that time with me, especially with the new baby."

The warmth of cuddling up and sharing a book together

"It's just really nice that that you're able to take five or ten minutes out just to have that time where you're all sat together with books," says Liz. "I think those opportunities just go too quickly as a parent and before you know it, they're teenagers.

"I can be absolutely raging at the kids because they've made a mess, or there's 1,001 things going on, but when you're reading a book together, you don't feel like that. The thing you feel is that warmth from being together."

Find out more about our refreshed Bookstart Baby pack

Discover research about the life-changing benefits of reading for children

Reading Together

Reading Together, Changing Children's Lives is based on decades of experience of working with millions of families and thousands of local partners, including health visitors, nurseries, schools, libraries and food banks.

Discover our four proposals