Coming soon: A new public library experience to help more families ‘discover the joy of reading’

Published on: 27 July 2021

This autumn, we will pilot a new and exciting national library experience called BookTrust Storytime, to support families with children aged 0-5 – especially those who are disadvantaged – engage with their local public library and develop an ongoing reading habit.

Sharing stories is invaluable for children in their early years and creates lifelong positive impacts on health, wellbeing, creativity and education, yet children from disadvantaged backgrounds continue to face the biggest barriers to reading.

The BookTrust Storytime experience will offer a raft of resources for librarians, alongside activities for families, that will bring the magic of reading to life, inspiring families to share stories and make visiting the local library a regular and long-lasting part of family life. 

More about BookTrust Storytime

Celebrating the best children’s books

These experiences will incorporate the existing BookTrust Storytime Prize, which celebrates the best early years’ children’s books. This year’s shortlist, announced today, will be integrated into the experience, and used to encourage families to make repeat visits to the library to enjoy the different stories and engage in the different activities on offer.

The six shortlisted BookTrust Storytime books

In the wake of the COVID pandemic, BookTrust Storytime forms part of our new strategy, which is focused on finding the most effective ways of supporting families who need more help beginning their reading journeys, so more children can enjoy the transformative benefits of reading.

Find out more about our bold new strategy

A recent BookTrust survey of 1,000 families in poverty with a child under five across England, Northern Ireland and Wales revealed that less than half (49 per cent) of these families are registered with a public library.

The pilot also aligns with libraries’ aspirations to reconnect with their local communities after a year of closures, and kickstart visits as part of their ongoing recovery from the pandemic. 

Every library in England will be invited to take part and receive a pack of the shortlisted books, alongside access to a range of digital resources. We will also work with a smaller number of libraries to offer a more extensive package of resources and opportunities to test new ways of inspiring shared story experiences through local libraries.

Libraries: A fun and friendly environment

Launching in Autumn 2021, the large-scale national pilot, funded by Arts Council England, and created with the support of library partners including The Association of Senior Children's and Education Librarians (ASCEL), Libraries Connected, The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) and Youth Libraries Group (YLG), will bring together local authorities, libraries, authors and illustrators.

BookTrust Storytime has been developed in collaboration with librarians and families to ensure the design and content reflects their experiences and meets their needs, including breaking down any limiting preconceptions – such as libraries being solely a place for reading books quietly – as well as showcasing the broader opportunities available with clear signage and a welcoming, friendly environment.

Insight from the co-design process showed that families are more likely to return to the library if they have a positive and fun first experience, and can see the enjoyment and benefit experienced by their child.

The pilot itself will adopt a three-tiered approach, with different levels of library engagement.

  • Every library in England will be invited to take part and receive a pack of the shortlisted books, plus access to digital resources.
  • Three hundred libraries will also receive physical resources and be encouraged to run storytime sessions for local families and take part in the BookTrust Storytime winner vote – to be announced in early 2022.
  • A further group of ten libraries – located in Luton (Leagrave Road Library), Lancashire (Nelson Library), Cornwall (Camborne Library), Rochdale (Balderstone library), Bradford (Laisterdyke library), Cambridgeshire (Wisbech Library), Rotherham (Rawmarsh Library), Hackney (Dalston CLR Library), Bristol (Junction 3 Library) and Sandwell (Stone Cross Library) – have been selected to work intensely with BookTrust to test a range of additional ideas, materials and activities to further inspire and motivate families who need more help beginning their reading journeys.

Discovering the joy of reading

Diana Gerald, CEO of BookTrust says: ‘At BookTrust, we believe all children should reap the life-changing benefits of reading, and our bold new strategy is focused on finding innovative ways to ensure children from disadvantaged families are not left behind.

‘Working with the local authorities and library services that share these ambitions, our BookTrust Storytime experience will remind families about the treasure trove of support available from their local library and kickstart visits as we emerge from the pandemic.

‘Through this pilot, we will work with our library and local authority partners to test and learn how families can be best supported to engage with their local public library and make sharing stories a regular part of family life.’

Sir Michael Morpurgo, President of BookTrust, adds: ‘I first walked into a library when I was about three, I think. It lent us the first books I ever loved, and I’ll never forget that.

‘Every library is a pathway to enjoyment, knowledge and understanding, and, to me, every librarian is a hero because they pass on what they love to children, making readers and writers of them, and bringing joy to their lives.

'It is wonderful that BookTrust and libraries across the country are working together and using their invaluable expertise to do something new and different to support more families discover the joy of reading.’

Download the full press release (.docx, 435KB) 

Find out more about the BookTrust Storytime project

Check out the shortlisted books for the BookTrust Storytime Prize

Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, our activities may be subject to changes or delays. Please check back for the latest updates.  

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