BookTrust to share new interactive Axel Scheffler book chosen by early years experts to encourage families to start reading with their babies

Published on: 27 June 2023

The new Bookstart Baby pack has been unveiled, featuring a book from the renowned illustrator Axel Scheffler.

Up to 580,000 babies across England and Wales will receive a copy of Who's Hiding on the Farm? by Axel Scheffler as part of BookTrust's flagship Bookstart Baby programme.

The book has been chosen by an expert panel that includes families, Bookstart Coordinators, librarians and other early years professionals to make sure it meets the needs of parents, carers and babies.

Every baby born in England and Wales is entitled to a free Bookstart Baby pack in their first year of life, which along with a book includes a finger puppet and a useful information leaflet about the benefits of sharing stories and rhymes.

The pack itself has also been refreshed this year to make it more environmentally friendly and give it a similar visual identity to our other Bookstart packs, helping families to recognise them as trusted resources and inspiring them to keep reading throughout childhood.

Bookstart Baby, provided thanks to funding from Arts Council England and the Welsh government, is given to families by registrars, health visitors, librarians and other early years professionals through partnerships with every local authority across England and Wales.

The programme is proven to have an effect on families' reading habits and is particularly important for low-income families during a cost-of-living crisis. In 2022, we conducted a survey of 1,083 parents and carers of children aged 0-7 living in low-income households in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Of those who recalled using a Bookstart Baby pack we found:

  • 72% of parents and carers said the Bookstart Baby packs are some of the first books they own for their child,
  • 86% said they enjoyed using the contents of the pack with their child 
  • 68% said Bookstart Baby prompted them to read and share stories more with their child than they may have done otherwise.

Why Who's Hiding on the Farm? has been chosen

The Bookstart Baby pack including an envelope, a guide for parents and carers, a finger puppet and the book Who's Hiding On the Farm?

Who's Hiding on the Farm? by Axel Scheffler, published by Campbell Books, is an easy-to-read hide and seek story that babies will enjoy hearing time and time again, contributing to the development of their early sounds and speech patterns.

With differently coloured and shaped felt flaps to lift and explore, it's a sturdy, tactile board book which could also help to support babies' sensory and fine motor skills development. 

Families in Wales will receive a bilingual version of the book featuring both English and Welsh text.

'I feel very honoured that my book has been chosen as the Bookstart Baby book and it makes me feel slightly dizzy thinking of all these babies growing up with this book!' said Axel Scheffler.

'I hope they will love the surprises in the book when they first lift the flaps and then that they will start to recognise the animals and remember who is hiding behind them.

'You can show any book to a child, and they can take something in. I read a lot to my own daughter when she was little and I really enjoyed the experience. Books are so important for children. You can really see how much it means to them and how they develop and learn to love stories. I know that it's very hard to find time to read but any free minute you have, you can use.'

Supporting families throughout the early years

Research shows that sharing books, stories and rhymes with children in the early years provides the biggest boost to children developmentally, enhancing cognitive, physical, social and emotional growth and development during a period of significant brain growth.

Shared reading also supports bonding between children and their family members, boosting parental positivity and improving children's sleep.

Following on from Bookstart Baby, BookTrust offers an extensive range of extra resources, books and support to children from low-income family backgrounds to help close the disadvantage gap. This includes offering Bookstart Toddler and Pre-schooler packs and BookTrust Storytime resources which are delivered through local public libraries.

Diana Gerald, Chief Executive of BookTrust, said: 'It's never too early to start sharing books and stories with children and by gifting Bookstart Baby we hope to get every child reading regularly and by choice so they can enjoy the lifelong benefits of reading.

'We're delighted that all babies will be able to enjoy Axel's fabulous book. With a narrative-led adventure story, it's easily accessible meaning anyone can pick it up and start reading to their children, even those who might be less confident or less used to reading aloud.

'Babies and families alike will enjoy the bonding opportunities that come with snuggling up together repeatedly with this brilliant book and we know Bookstart Baby makes a difference to their reading habits. As well as supporting babies' development and progress, we hope to demonstrate to families how much their children enjoy exploring books and stories together and hope that this kickstarts an early love of reading that will continue throughout childhood.'

Download the full press release

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

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Topics: Bookstart, News

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