BookTrust’s partners: “We’re advocates for them and they’re advocates for us. That’s what a true partnership should be”

Published on: 23 March 2023

Find out how BookTrust’s growing network of partners is helping to bring the benefits of reading to children who face disadvantage.

Photograph: Manal MassalhaPhotograph: Manal Massalha

By partnering with every local authority in England and Wales, and with local partners across Northern Ireland, BookTrust is able to get books, resources and support into the hands of children and families. We’re also exploring how we can reach more children most in need of support, through building deeper relationships with our existing partners, as well as working with more grassroots organisations who have access into different communities.  

Through our longstanding partnership with the London Borough of Hackney, their Libraries Team has helped us unlock the door to new families in the area who may benefit from our support.  

Libraries unlocking doors to their communities 

During the first Covid lockdown, when libraries had to close their doors, Monica Sever, Children and Young People's Manager at Hackney Council connected BookTrust to a local charity Hackney Playbus, who support local families with their children's early development. They work with families facing disadvantage, including homelessness and having English as an additional language. 

 At a time when everything else was locked down, Hackney Playbus’ agile way of working enabled them to remain in touch with local families. This provided an opportunity to ensure BookTrust resources were able to reach children in need 

Sara Blakemore, family worker for Hackney Playbus says:

We have a double-decker bus that goes around to different estates and parksDuring lockdown, we delivered BookTrust books to people in hostels and vulnerable families using our cargo bikes, with the help of volunteers. We had such lovely feedback from parents. Some said that their child didn’t have any books at all, they said: “It’s just so nice that someone thought about us. 

We went to a hostel where there was one mum who had just arrived there with her 18-month-old child. They didn't seem to have any toys or any books. The little girl was so delighted to get her BookTrust book. She was happily sitting there reading it next to all their unpacked bags and boxes. It brought a little bit of joy to that little girl's day during a very tricky first few days in a hostel."

"I love watching my daughter read this book [Baby Play] to my son. She talks him through the images and the patterns draw him in."
- Parent from Hackney Playbus

What our partnership with Hackney Playbus has achieved 

With BookTrust’s growing focus on reaching children and families who have more to gain from developing a habit of reading, our relationship with community partners like Hackney Playbus has continued to thrive. 

“There is a real clear connection with the values and aims of partners like Hackney Playbus and BookTrust’s shift in strategy,” says Jade Fairfax, senior partnership manager in the South for BookTrust,who works closely with all our partners in the borough. 

"Thank you for the books - she loves them, especially the ones with the black and white shapes. It is amazing to see her face now that she is more attentive to the words. She is starting to turn the pages."
- Parent from Hackney Playbus

Through close collaboration since 2020, families were able to visit their local library for interactive BookTrust Storytime sessions“By working through Hackney Playbus we were able to debunk some myths families had about libraries, and instead show that they are spaces for children,” says Jade.  

“We were able to arrange visits to get these families into the library for BookTrust Storytime – many of whom had never stepped foot inside a library before. They were then able to sign up to the library and start to use it.” 

Hackney Playbus families have also been involved in the development of our new Bookstart Toddler and Bookstart Pre-schooler packs. “They kindly let us attend their Toddler and Tots group, which was so fun and full of energy!” says Jade. “It is important for us to go where the families are to understand how our resources can support families on their reading journeys. We took mock-ups of the new packs and asked families and practitioners for their feedback."  

Jade adds: “Now that the packs have been created, staff at Hackney Playbus get to use the packs with their families. They know exactly what the offering is because they’ve helped create it.”

Bringing BookTrust’s strategy to life through partnerships 

It is BookTrust’s growth and expansion of our network of partners through the incredible support of local authorities that enables us to reach children and families in the greatest need and who have more to gain from developing a regular reading habit,” says JadeGenuine collaboration is the true spirit of partnership, and we’re all trying to achieve the same thing. 

Jade adds: “By working through partners who have built that trust up with the families in their community, we have a great opportunity to directly impact their reading behaviours through our resources. They’re advocates for us, and we’re advocates for them. That’s what a partnership should be.” 

Read more about BookTrust’s strategy – The Next Chapter 

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