CBeebies and BookTrust: a spectacular library story time in Blackpool

Published on: 05 March 2024

BookTrust and CBeebies kicked off a partnership with an action-packed event at Blackpool Central Library to get families excited about sharing books and stories.

"Who loves going to the library?" shouts the Dodge The Dog, waving his puppet paws with excitement. The response is a deafening cheer from the audience of babies, toddlers and the grown-ups (especially the dads...)

Today at Blackpool Central Library, BookTrust and CBeebies are here to host a magical family story time event. This includes a live reading from Strictly Come Dancing star Carlos Gu. He greets the audience with a spin, before taking a seat in the yellow CBeebies chair and captivating the crowd with a fun, expressive reading of a story.

Joining Carlos today are CBeebies presenter Ben Cajee, Dodge the Dog and iconic CBeebies characters Bluey and Supertato. Toddlers jump to their feet, point and look back at their family members like they can't quite believe it. These are their friends they see on TV all the time – what are they doing here?

What's more, during the story time, Ruth Hearson – illustrator of Zeki Rise and Shine - brings her heart-warming picture book to life with a touching rendition, and poet Mike Garry gives audiences a powerful live poetry performance. A BSL interpreter is here, ensuring everyone gets to fully participate in each story being shared.

Why BookTrust and CBeebies are teaming up

Carlos Gu reading a story

Experiencing the fun of books first-hand at a library story time can be an important first step in encouraging more families to feel the library is a place they belong - and that reading can be an enjoyable experience.

This is why BookTrust and CBeebies are joining forces. Blackpool is the first of seven library locations – along with Leeds, Hartlepool, Sandwell, Leicester, Brent and Somerset - where a CBeebies reading corner is being established, complete with a CBeebies Bedtime Stories yellow chair and CBeebies merchandise.

Along with this, these libraries will take part in BookTrust Storytime, an interactive programme designed to encourage families to make library visits a regular part of family life, which brought 50,000 children into 2,400 libraries across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year.

The seven library locations were chosen as part of BookTrust's work with Arts Council England to test and develop new ways to inspire parents and children to develop a love of reading together.

"We're thrilled to team up with CBeebies and our partners at Blackpool Council to create this unforgettable library story time experience for families," says BookTrust's CEO Diana Gerald. "Exploring new ways to engage families with the free reading support on offer at their local library is a key pillar of our charity's work to help more children get the wide-ranging benefits that come from a love of reading."

How children's favourite characters can help engage them with reading

Dodge the Dog, Ben Cajee and a sign language interpreter leading a story time session in front of a group of families at Blackpool Central Library

"I think linking the CBeebies brand with BookTrust is really powerful," says CBeebies presenter Ben Cajee. "Having relatable characters is really important to make something accessible and fun. You see young people's faces light up when they see characters and friends that they see on the television; when they see Dodge, Supertato and Bluey. And there'll be people here who are super excited about seeing Carlos."

As a ballroom dancing champion, Strictly's Carlos Gu – who recently joined the CBeebies Bedtime Stories family - is no stranger to Blackpool. "I'm really excited," he says. "I'm going to put all my energy and my dance moves into the book that I'm reading today. I really do hope that me, CBeebies, Ben, everybody here, we can really inspire people to come to the library."

What the partnership means for families in Blackpool

Carlos Gu reading a story

"The event in this library today has been fantastic – we're so excited to have it in Blackpool," says Jo O'Farrell, Cabinet Minister of Levelling Up (People) for Blackpool Council. "Reading is integral to our Levelling Up strategy. It's about ensuring our families have that aspiration. Reading to children at an early age encourages the development of their language, their vocabulary, their literacy skills. It's also about joy, and giving them that lifetime gift of reading."

Ruth Hearson reflects on why engaging children with reading for pleasure in their early years is so vital. "The world of books opens up the world," she says. "It's about imagination and thinking about what your life and your world can be. It's about empathy - seeing how lives are different for other people - and things that you're afraid of – like feelings and emotions. All of those things can be explained and understood, just by picking up a book – even a very young children's book."

Making families feel at home at Blackpool Central Library

Carlos Gu, Ben Cajee and a sign language interpreter cheering in front of a group of cheering children in Blackpool Central Library

After the event in Blackpool, families are invited to take a seat on the iconic CBeebies Bedtime Stories yellow chair and take photos, as well as take part in some arty activities.

Shelley is here today with her daughter. "I don't know who enjoyed it more, me or her!" she says. "She sat and listened, it was really engaging. Her favourite bit was when Dodge came out, but also seeing Ben Cajee. Obviously we watch CBeebies, so the chair, the music, it's everything she's used to."

On hearing that the CBeebies chair will be staying at Blackpool Central Library, Shelley says: "No way, that's great. We'll definitely be sitting on it! We'll have a picture on there and read a story on it."

Reflecting on today's story time, Carlos Gu says: "This is a beautiful, magical place – and this is such a great community. I'd love to come back again and read a story and to see how families are going to enjoy our special corner."

Ben Cajee adds: "It's about having a really good experience in a library setting – being able to have some fun with reading and illustrations, meet some authors. Hopefully we can make people smile, they'll have a good time and they'll see reading doesn't have to be something scary. It can be something positive, that they'll want to engage with in the future."

Topics: Features

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