Eluned Morgan AM celebrates 25 years of Bookstart

Published on: 04 December 2017

BookTrust's National Bookgifting programme turns a quarter of a century.

Eluned Morgan

Children, families, health visitors, librarians and the Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan AM, gathered in Cardiff Bay to celebrate 25 years of Bookstart, BookTrust's national bookgifting programme.

The event, held at the Pierhead Building in Cardiff Bay on Tuesday 28 November, welcomed over 50 children and their families to help them celebrate Bookstart and enjoy some special Storytime sessions.

Since 1992, BookTrust has gifted over 34 million books to children across the UK through Bookstart. Bookstart aims to help every child get the best possible start in life, and every child in Wales can receive a special Bookstart pack of books when they are 6 months and 27 months old, usually from their health visitor. The Bookstart packs include English and Welsh language books, fun rhyme resources and ideas to help families keep on reading and enjoying books. The programme is funded in Wales by the Welsh Government.

Lynne Hannington, Senior Nurse Health Visiting and School Nursing commented:

'Bookstart helps Health Visitors build a therapeutic relationship with a family. The books encourage parents to share books with their children from a very young age and are gratefully received by parents. We particularly like the promotion of the Welsh language and the availability of books in other languages.'

Bookstart aims to start families on a lifelong love of books and reading, and the Bookstart packs are supported by weekly Rhymetime and Storytime sessions in local libraries. Margaret Holt, Bookstart Coordinator for Cardiff Libraries, says:

'Our free Bookstart Storytime and Rhymetime sessions are a great way of bringing together different families and sharing the joy of books and rhymes from a very young age. Children can learn vital language and social skills in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Part of the job I love most is seeing the reactions of parents as they realise how excited their child is hearing a new rhyme or story!'

Bookstart Dechrau Da has been offered in Wales since 1999 and the programme remains as important as ever. Helen Wales, BookTrust's Head of Country for Wales, explains:

'Bookstart, books and reading are as important as ever, 25 years on. The world has changed but reading and sharing books, stories and rhymes, from a very early age are still vital to support children's development and to inspire a lifelong love of reading. Even with new technology, that special time of curling up and reading a book with a child still matters.
'Research tells us that children who are read to every day are likely to be twelve months ahead with their reading when they start school. If children are read to 3-5 times a week, it's said to have the same effect as being six months ahead of their peers. We encourage everyone to spend time sharing a book with a child in their life, and we encourage all parents and carers to use their local libraries to find great books to read together and to try Rhymetime and Storytime sessions.'

The Bookstart 25th Anniversary celebrations brought together families from across Cardiff, and Bookstart partners including libraries, health visitors, Cymraeg i Blant and Wales PPA. Families enjoyed some very special Rhymetime and Storytime sessions – and sang 'Happy Birthday' to the Bookstart Bear.

The Minster for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning, Eluned Morgan AM, attended a special session run by Margaret Holt, the Bookstart Coordinator for Cardiff Libraries, and spoke about Bookstart helping to instil a love of reading in children and in introducing Welsh to non-Welsh speaking families. BookTrust CEO Diana Gerald thanked partners and members and talked about how valuable shared reading is for small children and the importance of the Bookstart programme in Wales.

Eluned Morgan said:

'Reading is far more than just a skill, it's the key to learning and to an imagination which can take us to other countries, other worlds even other galaxies. Bookstart's bilingual programme has played a vital role in instilling a love of reading in children and helping parents to help their children to improve their literacy skills for twenty five years.
It has also made an invaluable contribution to introducing the Welsh language to non Welsh speaking families and encouraging parents to choose Welsh medium education. I congratulate Bookstart on its 25th anniversary and look forward to celebrating many more important milestones.'

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Every child in Wales receives two Bookstart packs from their health visitor, each containing English and Welsh language books, guidance and resources to help families share books, stories and rhymes.

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